Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Steelhead Genetics Project follow up

A reminder to all you anglers who participated in the 2016 Steelhead genetics project this past spring. The DNR Staff will be sending all angler collected scale samples for analysis in the next couple of weeks or so.

Please mail any remaining samples that you have as soon as you can. You can email with any questions.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

MS Creel Project Q&A

In preparation for the release of the 2016 Creel Project data, we decided that a Q&A session with Minnesota Steelheader VP NMF was in order. We want to make sure people understand what it is, and how their creel report submissions are being used.

Q: What is the Minnesota Steelheader Creel Project? 
A: The creel project is a non-scientific survey of voluntarily submitted angler catch data. We are gathering information about North Shore steelhead fishing, analyzing it, then providing that information back to anglers; hopefully in a way that is useful and meaningful to steelhead fishing. The Project provides information both about how the current-year migration went, as well as painting a historical picture of North Shore steelhead returns based on a set of research questions.

Q: When you say, "Non-scientific", what does that mean?
A: It only means that we don't employ the strictly rigid scientific controls which would be part of any study conducted say by the Minnesota DNR fisheries section. We do however apply traditional scientific methodology to the Project. In other words we ask a question, do research, construct hypotheses, test them, analyze the data and draw conclusions, then communicate our results back to you.  We rely heavily on angler submissions, fisheries research papers, historical adult and juvenile trap research and data from multiple States, MN PCA bio-station data, and a combination of USGS, MN DNR Cooperative Stream Gaging and NRRI at UMD (Lake Superior Streams.Org) hydrologic data. We also built our own application to assist with compiling hydrologic measurements and statistical creel data.

Q: What is the theory behind the Creel Project?
A: Part of our mission as an organization is to inform and educate.  We can answer questions verbatim all day long from the current fisheries research if you want, the trick though is aligning those findings with actual data, then presenting it in such a way as to be useful from a steelhead fishing perspective.  Some of the questions are those we receive every year from newer steelhead anglers, steelhead 101 if you will. Then there is the list of what you might call the advanced course.  We don't have enough data yet, so we're still several years out from the quantum steelheading course.  Our hope is that the charts and information we provide are simple and intuitive enough for the newer steelheader, but also provide information at a deeper level for more experienced steelheaders. A kind of all-in-one, multi-layered conversation so to speak with respect to the charts we produce.

Q: Do you have any concerns about publishing this data?
A: Absolutely. As an organization, MS is mindful of the dangers presented in this day of instant information, social media, web access etc. There's no question those kinds of things can drive on-stream pressure. The trick is to find the balance between information and education, and there are challenges with that.  People have stated that this is one of the reasons they don't submit creel reports which is unfortunate.

Q: Why do anglers opposes submitting catch data?
A: The concern among steelheaders is that MS is posting their real-time creel reports which creates excessive angling pressure on a given stream. At a glance this might appear to be the case, but we do several things to mask the underlying data, specifically for the Daily charts.  The only thing that is "live" in what we post are the streamflows and temperatures, everything else is simply a trend in angling reports; success is either trending upwards or downwards.

Q: And how does masking the data help?
A: By way of example, the regional Daily charts for Lower, Mid and Upper Shore we post in the period before the runs start, are really designed to illustrate the relationship between current stream conditions and kamloops/steelhead presence or absence in the streams. This can give you an idea as to the numbers present as well. The information presented is based on findings from both DNR fisheries research as well as our own past creel data. 

The first mask so to speak is that that the information is only presented at the regional level, and these are fairly large: Lower, Mid and Upper Shore. Believe it or not, there is a high degree of variability there on a stream by stream basis, and we do not post individual streams by name. In other words, we talk about the geographic region, but the angler has to go find the fish and we don't point at any streams in particular. We also use hydrologic data from all available stations within that region. You can't assume that if you think the hydrologic data came from the Baptism, that it's the stream the creel reporting is coming from.

The second mask is applied to the actual creel data submitted by anglers. MS does not know which stream within a given region the report came from, we only see a date, the number of fish caught and Lower, Mid or Upper Shore in the submitted report. This spreads out the potential number of streams you would have visit to find fish, even if the posted chart shows increasing numbers for that region. The chart Is not connected to a single stream, it could be any of them because it is an aggregate of ALL streams in that region

IF we posted the actual report numbers rather than the trend, the charts would look very different and could potentially drive the pressure problems outlined above. What we actually do for this specific chart is to compile the creel reports, then produce a trend. For you math junkies out there, the trend is either a six or nine-point moving average depending on how deeply we want to mask the underlying reports. The overall effect is that we produce a chart which illustrates the relationship between kamloops and steelhead presence and activity in the streams based on what the overall regional temperatures and flow are doing during the pre-run period. The trend however shifts specific catch data dates to a degree, it is only after the run is complete that we unmask the data so you can see the relationships between flow, temperature and catch trend as it happened. Once we hit what we call the run-initiation threshold, we stop posting the trend. 

From a steelheading perspective, all this really does is to illustrate how far away, or how close we are to the steelhead run kicking off in a given region. This in turn is based on the questions we've been able to answer using first the DNR fisheries research to give us a starting point, then our own creel project data. The reason I said it's unfortunate that people don't want to post in fear of the issues outlined above, is that the data model isn't so much about analyzing current-year creel results, it is more about gathering long term data. While the current year data helps to understand where the run is at, particularly in the run-up to the first big push of fish, the whole point of the project is to develop a picture of what North Shore runs look like over time. This is the only way to get an accurate picture of what really happens. A significant goal of our data-collection gathering is to create that run picture in the context of steelhead fishing. Not just for MS, but for everyone.

Q: Are there any plans to address the concerns of anglers who would otherwise submit their creel reports, but do not do so now?
A: MS has been considering a number of changes to the reporting format. We would really like to capture creel reports year-round. We would also like to expand the species list from the current format to also include both pink and coho salmon. What we've found with brook trout, which below-barrier we are calling "presumed coasters", is that you get some surprising results when you compare that creel data to the steelhead data. Over and above that, I think the number one thing we could do to address angler concerns would be to include a check box on the reporting page. This check box would allow an angler to indicate whether their submission should be included or excluded from the early current-year reporting. That way, MS would still capture the data for historical analysis, and the angler could be assured that any potential issues with current year stream pressure are either mitigated or not a factor since their data would only be used in the "big picture" creel project reporting which is released only after the current year run is over.  

Q: What is the big picture? What are the main questions MS is trying to answer?  
A: The list is fairly extensive, but the main questions we would like to answer, again from a steelhead fishing perspective are:

  • Is there an overall run picture or timing for the North Shore?
  • Is there a specific run timing for each region of the shore?
  • How, and more importantly, why do these change from year to year?
  • Is there a typical run progression from south to north?
  • How is the run affected by an early or late start?
  • How is the run period affected by prolonged cold stream temps or a rapid warmup?
  • What is the influence of stream temperatures and flow on steelhead during each phase of the run?
    • What angling methods and presentations are most effective during the various phases
  • How long do the fish remain in the streams?
  • Are the run initiation temperature threshold research findings independently supported by the creel data?
  • What are the effects of low flow on the run?
  • Does the creel data support research findings on high flow limiting thresholds for upbound fish?
  • How far in advance of the steelhead do the kamloops begin upstream migration?  
Q: Are angler submissions to the creel project helping to answer these questions?
A: They are, we couldn't do this without them and we are really grateful when people take the time to submit reports.  We also couldn't do it without the background research and reporting by the Minnesota DNR fisheries biologists and technicians, so we really appreciate that work as well.

Q: What is the one question you can't answer?
A: Every once in a while someone asks whether we can predict the run. The answer is no, you can't look 2 years into the future and say it will start on X date for example. The best you can do, and this is where the historical data has provided some surprises, is to watch conditions starting just before ice-out. We have enough evidence now that there are key things you can look for to indicate what's coming. The problem you run into is that there's so much variability in year-to-year weather conditions, one good cold snap or late snowstorm puts everything into a holding pattern. In those cases, you just have to take a deep breath, and wait for those indicators to re-appear. What we do know based on the creel project is that once we hit what we call the temperature initiation threshold, things happen in a fairly orderly progression. To validate this, we went back in time to study data captured prior to the creel project to see if that was actually the case. Sure enough when we ran the numbers, 2015 looked much like 2005, which looked much like 1997 and so on. The dates varied widely for run start, peak and end, but the picture of what it looked like while it was happening was almost identical. Again, not a prediction, but once you know where you are at in a given run, you can adjust your steelheading tactics to maximize success; that is the important part.

Q: What do you do with creel project questions that have been answered?
A: You still have to gather new data and do the analysis, it would be a mistake to stop asking the question simply because you think you know the answer. Things change and we need to remain flexible, we'll stick with the best explanation to a question until the creel data or something else shows that we need a different answer. That kind of thing is pretty painless because you just incorporate the change into the data model, and we've done that a couple of times. The critical part becomes explaining the change and relating it to steelhead fishing so that it makes sense again to the angler. 

Q: Is there a goal to the creel project?
A: The short answer is steelheading success, but there's so much more to it in terms of being a conservation-minded organization.  People go through an evolution as steelhead anglers, but it all starts with success, and nothing gets people more engaged initially than holding on to a steelhead for dear life. The more you know, the more successful you become.  More success leads to more engagement and curiosity about things connected to steelheading. This opens up all kinds of different paths if you just follow that road: things like place attachment, travel, conservation, exploring new water, time with family and friends, making new friends, angler recruitment and retention, learning about the fishery, water chemistry, geology and how these are all inextricably linked in the North Shore fishery. All of this starts with simply observing the world around you; not through a computer or a smart phone, but because you're out in it.

Q: When can we expect to see the 2016 Creel Project results?
A: We've started analysis of the 2016 data in terms of all the regional charts. The heavy-duty analysis comes when we do all of the data-nesting for the historical data. We're hoping that will be completed within the next two weeks, it will really depend on whether any more Upper Shore reports trickle in. Absent that, we anticipate posting the last week of June.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rainbow Trout Stocking update

Many anglers have asked about steelhead and kamloops stocking along the north shore.  Here is some information from the MN DNR management plan outlining the 2015 stocking statistics.

Reminder, even though some steelhead you may catch are stocked, you still cannot harvest them. This will be apparent as the adipose fin is not clipped on stocked steelhead.  The adipose fin is only clipped on kamloops rainbow trout, and only clipped fin rainbow trout may be harvested in the Minnesota waters of Lake Superior.  This fin clipping is done when the fish are juveniles. The clipped fin area will be recognized by a healed over scar. 

Steelhead Stocking:
A total of 356,390 steelhead fry were stocked in 2015 (Table 4). Stocked fish were offspring produced from Knife River captive broodstock and/or wild adult steelhead captured at the mouth of the French River. Steelhead fry continue to be reared for short lengths of time at the Spire Valley Hatchery (SVH) to prevent the potential introduction of VHS above the natural barriers. The fry are then transported in well water to North Shore tributaries and stocked upstream of natural barriers. Extended periods of very warm Lake Superior water in 2012 caused considerable mortality of steelhead broodstock in the FRCWH, which reduced fry availability in recent years. The steelhead stocking quota was modified with revisions to the 2016 Lake Superior Management Plan. The annual quota will be reduced or eliminated at some rivers in future years to more accurately reflect the annual fry availability over the past decade. Progress has been made to replace the losses of captive steelhead broodstock at the FRCWH, but it will take several more years before it is completely replenished.

 Table 4. Steelhead fry stocking quota and number stocked in 2015 by MNDNR management area and stream.

MNDNR Management Area  Stream  Quota  Number Stocked
Duluth Area French River 150,000 99,908
Gooseberry River 50,000 37,282
Lester River 100,000 71,743
Silver Creek 50,000 23,617
Finland Area Split Rock River 150,000 66,151
Baptism River 150,000 57,689
Total 650,000 356,390

Kamloops Stocking:
 A total of 102,649 Kamloops yearlings were stocked in the French River (45,446), Lester River (19,730), and McQuade Harbor (37,473) in 2015, which exceeded the annual quota of 92,500. About 73% of the Kamloops quota is partially reared at SVH before being returned to the FRCWH each year. Spire Valley Kamloops are reared for approximately three months at FRCWH prior to being stocked into Lake Superior. The remaining Kamloops are reared entirely at the FRCWH prior to stocking in Lake Superior.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Women on the Fly Streamside clinic

Minnesota’s beautiful North Shore: The shores give way to an expanse of water that is Lake Superior into which our favorite tributaries flow.  The river mouths serving as the staging ground for the trout gathering in anticipation of Mother Nature’s cues to embark on their annual upstream journey.  Surrounded by vast forests are the picturesque waterfalls where our treasured steelhead venture in early spring in pursuit of the perfect spawning ground and a suitable mate.  As the season warms and the spawning cycle reaches completion, the bright silver flashes of a hen digging redds and the trail of males usually found trailing close behind her begin to fade indicating they have begun their retreat toward their primary residence in Lake Superior.

For many anglers the end of the spawn marks the end of their annual steelhead fishing.  While the visible activity may not be as apparent, a patient and knowledgeable angler can continue finding plenty of activity beneath the water this time of year.  Fishing for backdrops is greatly satisfying and offers up a golden opportunity to lean on your knowledge of the water and understanding of the fish.  This was the basis of our 2016 Women on the Fly Streamside Clinic that was held on the Baptism River this past Saturday, May 21st

Five of our eight registered participants were able to attend the clinic, two North Shore residents and three made the trek from the twin cities area. Three ladies brought spinning setups and two used fly rods.  Each woman was given a binder containing an outline of the day’s discussion topics, several articles related to what they’d be learning on the water and other information pertaining to the fishery, species identification, techniques, etc. so they have something to reference after the clinic.  Anyone who’s been new to fly fishing and steelheading knows there is a great deal of information to process.  Rods, reels, lines, leaders… Pockets, seams, tail outs, riffles… Steelhead, Kamloops, Brook Trout, Browns… Having the information organized and accessible for the women after the clinic is just as vital as going over it during the event.  Our goal is not only to get them out and comfortable on the water but to provide resources to help keep them on the water.

It was my privilege to coordinate and lead the inaugural Minnesota Steelheader’s Women on the Fly Clinic.  To help instruct and assist in the discussion were my fiancĂ© Jared and Neil, Minnesota Steelheader’s VP.  The weather was perfect as we gathered at the picnic tables near the Tettegouche lot for introductions and to cover the basics: Steelhead/Kamloop identification, habitat, history and life spawning cycles, a summary of typical species caught during the spring steelhead run, overview of techniques and when to apply each from shore casting to fly fishing, review of gear, reading water, river crossing and safety tips.  When the class portion had concluded, the women had an opportunity to look more closely at the gear we talked about as the contents of my own hip bag were displayed on the picnic table.  They asked great questions about the different flies and yarn colors and were able to take anything they needed; hooks, sinkers, yarn, swivels, flies and so on.  We were now ready to go streamside!

The hike down to the water was beautiful.  We paused on the bridge overlooking the river to review how to identify seams, pocket water, eddies, etc.  Arriving at our streamside location we broke down into groups: Jared with Deb, Kady with Neil and I had Natalie and Samantha.  Our teenage angler who was familiar with the stretch we were fishing and had some previous experience steelheading with her dad, floated between us.  Our young angler’s wit and enthusiasm for the outdoors was contagious and we were fortunate to have her with us!

We provided lessons on snelling yarn, guidance on the areas to target and why and instruction in technique.  It wasn’t very long after we had everyone in the water and fishing that one of our participants had a fish on.  More specifically, Natalie had an approximately 24-inch bright hen on the end of her line that was jumping through the air and giving her a true, wild steelhead battle.  It took a couple of attempts but we were able to land the fish.  Handing Natalie her first river steelie was an awesome moment to put it mildly!  Just as soon as we had stopped trembling from the excitement of Nat’s catch, I received word that Deb had caught a juvenile steelhead!  I then ran upstream to check in with Deb who was up around the corner from us and when I returned to Natalie and Samantha I learned that Sam had caught a brook trout!  We don’t go into these clinics with the expectation of catching fish because our primary objective is helping participants get comfortable on the water, become familiar with the equipment and work on developing good technique.  We consider any fish caught to be a bonus so with 3 of our 5 ladies getting fish, we definitely hit the lotto!

We started the clinic at 9:45am and before I knew it, we had bypassed our end time of 12:45pm.  Time absolutely flew by. My original intention was to work with all of the women one-on-one throughout our time on the water however I had only briefly been upstream with Deb and hadn’t work with Kady at all.  Despite it not going exactly how I envisioned, the event exceeded my expectations.  Kady was in great hands with Neil and she picked up the technique beautifully as did Deb under Jared’s instruction.  Both Samantha and Natalie were quick to learn and asked a lot of great questions.  The enthusiasm of our 15-yr old participant for the outdoors and for steelheading is admirable.  She is incredibly driven and just an overall great young lady.  Working with this group of women was an honor, they all did an amazing job and should be very proud of themselves.  Every one of them earned their place on the North Shore as Women on the Fly!

The weather was perfect, the low water made it easy to identify the different types of water, Neil and Jared did an exceptional job with the ladies under their instruction and with adding to our discussion, we caught fish in the locations we were teaching the women to target for back drop fish and I had the best group of women I could possibly have had for our first event.  At the end of the day everyone had a positive experience and were asking about future clinics.  Our first clinic was a great success!
When we created Women on the Fly, we really had no idea what kind of response we would receive.  We are the first to offer a North Shore steelheading/fly fishing women’s program so much of what we are doing and events we’ll be offering are essentially new, unexplored territories and concepts.  To see the number of women wanting to learn and seeking the resources they need to become successful anglers is exciting.  The North Shore’s female anglers are massively unrepresented but as we continue to develop and build Women on the Fly, there is no doubt that’ll change.  More and more people are recognizing the value in the program and are offering their support.  More and more women are realizing that it’s really not an intimidating sport if you have the right resources and knowhow.  We have a great thing going with Women on the Fly and I am excited to see what the future holds for the program.

Thank you to Jared, Neil and all of our participants for making our first Women on the Fly Streamside Clinic a huge success!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lisa's Journey to Becoming a Woman on the Fly:

As we prepare to share stories and experiences of steelheading ladies, I figure it's time to provide a glimpse into my own journey.

Many folks envision a successful steelhead angler as someone with a particular grace with a fly rod.  An example of intense focus and patience.  A person at ease on the rugged terrain that must be traversed through dense forest and swift, flowing rivers.  An individual who exudes that special sense of peace when in nature...

There I stood one April morning on a North Shore stream for the first time.  The cute guy I had convinced to take me fishing had provided a couple lessons in casting, drifting, knot tying and yarn cutting but that was the limit of my training. As gentle rays of the new day's early light peered delicately through the trees, we began to fish.  After a few unfruitful drifts we trudged further upstream and again I presented that little snippet of yarn, while in the back of my mind wrestling with the rationale of expecting a fish to strike the tiny bundle of fibers.  Within seconds however the proof
was right there, ripping line from my fly reel, testing the strength and flex of the 9 ft., 8 wt. rod and jumping through the air, putting on an impressive display. That quiet, serene morning took a turn very quick when I hooked that steelhead.  I froze in both shock and awe at the utter power of the fish while Jared and his buddy started yelling instructions.  Mind you, until this moment my battles as an angler had been with pan fish, walleye and the occasional pike on walleye rods and spinning reels so most terms being hurled at me were completely foreign.  Despite the guys' best intentions to help, I just didn't understand what on earth they were telling me to do.  I lost my first steelhead.  As it turned out, that was the first of many steelies I would lose until our last stop on the last day of our last trip of my second steelheading season.

Remember those ideal attributes of many successful steelhead anglers I mentioned earlier?  Well as a hot-headed, Irish girl I was not naturally blessed with those qualities.  For some of us, having those traits from the get go isn't what makes us great steelheaders.  In my case it was the determination and drive to be a great steelheader that helped me to develop those attributes. 

I spent two seasons hooking fish but failing to land them.  Or Jare would hand over the rod when he'd hook a fish and I could land those. Two seasons of hat-stomping frustration and some colorful language eventually led me to find patience and peace.  Two seasons of demanding unrealistic expectations of myself despite inexperience and unfamiliar conditions taught me to focus on the present, to be more open to change and to further my adaptability.  The learning curve was pretty steep but finally after two challenging seasons I made my first official steelhead catch.  Though it wasn't an impressive steelie nor a dramatic battle, I wouldn't change it for the world.  That moment signified a lot of work and represented many obstacles overcome. The pieces had finally all fallen into place and I've been a steelheader ever since. 

Not long after that, Jared and I decided to move up to his childhood home on Minnesota's majestic North Shore and are raising our family here.  The opportunity to frequent these rivers as often as I do is amazing.  You'd think by now I would've learned how to walk the trails with more grace than an elephant on roller skates but not the case.  I still face-plant in mud on a regular basis, still take out frustration on any inexpensive piece of gear that can be hurled to the ground without breaking from time to time.  I still about jump out of my waders when a small critter catches me off guard while I'm fishing.  Some things may never change but some of my favorite aspects of the sport are the unique adventures, constant challenges and the crazy experiences. 

I want other women to experience the empowerment that comes with conquering these rivers and battling these strong, beautiful trout.  I want women to see that they have a place among the guys and know that while we are the minority, there are more like-minded women out there than we realize. 
It's an honor to be a part of a program like Minnesota Steelheader's Women on the Fly and to be able to help share the stories we otherwise wouldn't hear.  A couple such stories will be coming up soon and if you would like to share yours, we'd love to hear from you!  Feel free to shoot us an email to anytime!


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Mid and Upper Shore Updates

Couple updates for you-

Mid Shore: This Region is just hitting the initiation temps. Stream temp increases are being inhibited by remaining snow-pack and melt along the Mid Shore, but flows are increasing for the same reason. Ignore the catch trend for anything after the 8th, we are waiting for the latest creel reports which are not reflected in the data below:

Upper Shore: Looks good right? Not so fast my steelheading friends.... Our only Index Stream with a temperature package is really small, consequently it usually hits initiation temps 7-10 days prior to the bulk of the Upper Shore steelhead streams. Basically you can't use it to gauge wider conditions, but it still is a great resource. Here too, stream temp increases are being inhibited by remaining snow-pack and melt along the Upper Shore, but flows are increasing for the same reason. Ignore the catch trend for anything after the 10th, we are waiting for the latest creel reports which are not reflected in the data below:

Overall, we are finally there. It's been a really strange pre-run, we'll have more analysis once we release the 2016 Creel Project results in early June. For now, get out there! We are getting some crazy reports from both Lower and Mid Shore.

As always, we appreciate you submitting any and all Creel Project Reports. You and submit Creel Reports HERE

And don't forget about the Steelhead Genetics Project. For more information, contact Nick Peterson at (218) 302-3272 or by e-mail: Nick Peterson 

Minnesota Steelheader

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lower Shore Update

    It appears based on everything we are seeing in the data that we have finally hit the initiation temps on the Lower North Shore. We should be seeing significant numbers of adult steelhead beginning their upstream migration in earnest. Look for a large increase in both trap numbers as well as fish reported in the creel. We've included max daily temps in this graphic as well, just so you get a feel for what they are doing.

The creel trend below flat-lines after the 10th simply because we don't have any fresher reports yet, so don't let that fool you. It's magic time for the Lower Shore


Monday, April 11, 2016

2016 Creel Project Running Totals

DATE: 05/27/2016
Lower Shore
Brook Trout
Number Reported001
Total Reported13338214
DATE: 05/17/2016
Mid Shore
Brook Trout
Number Reported2100
Total Reported5632112
DATE: 05/27/2016
Upper Shore
Brook Trout
Number Reported1190
Total Reported22954
DATE: 05/27/2016
Shore-Wide Totals
Brook Trout
Number Reported13191
Total Reported91754230

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Updated 2016 Creel Trend - All Three North Shore Regions

Wow, we just cannot seem to get a jump-start from stream temps. Fish are active and sneaking in when stream temps peak in the afternoons, but we just have not gotten that first major up-bound migration yet:

Lower Shore Creel Trend as of 04.08.2016

Mid Shore Creel Trend as of 04.08.2016

Upper Shore Creel Trend as of 04.08.2016

Friday, April 08, 2016

2016 Running Trap Summary

DATE: 04/15/2016
Knife River Flow: 349 CFS
French RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured19204223
Total Captured10311081211
DATE: 04/15/2016
Index River Avg Temp: 41.36°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured3861387
Total Captured5312533
DATE: 04/11/2016
Knife River Flow: 166 CFS
French RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured84231315
Total Captured84904988
DATE: 04/11/2016
Index River Avg Temp: 33.43°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured202
Total Captured1451146
DATE: 04/06/2016
Knife River Flow: 130 CFS
French RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured0673673
Total Captured0673673
DATE: 04/06/2016
Index River Avg Temp: 31.81°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured00144
Total Captured1431144
DATE: 04/05/2016
Knife River Flow: 142 CFS
French RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured000
Total Captured000
DATE: 04/05/2016
Index River Avg Temp: 31.02°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured1431144
Total Captured1431144
DATE: 03/31/2016
Knife River Flow: 447 CFS
French RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured000
Total Captured000
DATE: 03/31/2016
Index River Avg Temp: 32.58°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured000
Total Captured000
DATE: 03/27/2016
Knife River Flow: 147 CFS
French RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured000
Total Captured000
DATE: 03/27/2016
Index River Avg Temp: 32.02°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloops
Number Captured000
Total Captured000

Wednesday, April 06, 2016


A fisherwomen's checklist - Part one:

Being equipped properly on the water is not just a matter of comfort.  It is a matter of safety.  All anglers will find themselves in a risky scenario at some point and that is when you need to be confident that you can trust your gear with your life. 

Let’s review the basics: Polarized sunglasses, stocking foot waders, wading boots, base layers, hat and hip pack

Polarized Sunglasses:
Whether you are whipping fly line around or dislodging a snag, you want your eyeballs to be protected from flying hooks and sinkers.  Shades are essential.  The functionality of the polarized lenses will become apparent as you learn to look through the water versus at the water.  Not only will you be able to spot your target fish in some instances but the ability to see through the water will also give you a boost of confidence as you begin crossing rivers.
Polarized shades are pretty easy to find.  Just be sure they fit your melon well because you’ll sweat and be moving around so unless they are snug on your face, they’ll fall right off and be long gone before you realize they’re missing.

Stocking-foot Waders:
Good quality womens waders are difficult to find.  Cabelas make some that fit well and would suit a beginner just fine.  When purchasing waders, keep in mind that you need enough room to layer underneath for those cold, early spring mornings but don’t want to be swimming in them when you’re rocking the minimum base layers on warm, late spring days.  You need to move freely and comfortably in your waders.  Too much constriction and you’ll blow out the rear when bending over to land your fish. Too much bunching or bagginess will make you feel like an orca in a kiddy pool.  The best way to figure out what size works best for you is by trying them on.  Acknowledging that not all of us are  within reasonable driving distance to retailer’s physical locations, Cabelas, Simms, Gander Mountain, etc. all provide measurements on their websites to help you decide what size to purchase if you are shopping online.
Over time if you discover your waders aren’t holding up to your active angling, my recommendation is to look into purchasing Simms womens waders.  Simms make very high-quality, well-constructed waders for women.  For those of us above or below the “average” height standard, Simms offers both “tall” and “short” sizing.  As a tall woman who spends substantial time in waders, having that extra length goes a long way in terms of comfort and overall function. 

Your wading belt needs to be snug and secure.  In the event you get washed downstream, the purpose of that belt is to keep your waders from filling with water causing you to sink to the bottom of the river. It’s much harder for water to get below a properly secured wading belt, allowing you more time to get out of the dangerous situation. You may smell like a wet puppy once you’re back on shore but you’ll be a live wet puppy.
Wading Boots:
You have two basic options when it comes to wading boots: Rubber or felt-soled.  Some states have banned felt-soled wading boots in an effort to stop the spread of invasive species from watershed to watershed.  Minnesota currently does not have any restrictions so you still have a choice between the two.  Rubber-soled boots have made massive strides over the last decade so the pros and cons pretty well match its felt counterpart according to most people, especially when used with studs for additional traction.  My personal experience has been exclusively with felt-soled wading boots.  Despite different brands, my felt-soled boots have always provided adequate traction and stability on various terrain.  Even if I’m crossing a mucky stream where it’s impossible to see the bottom, I’m confident my boots will perform and help get me to the other side safely.  There are several brands of wading boots (both rubber and felt-soled) to choose from.  My recommendations again are Cabelas womens wading boots or Simms womens wading boots.  Both brands make felt and rubber-soled options and both make wading boots that can handle the rugged hiking that’s required to get to some of our favorite North Shore honey holes! 
Base Layers & Wading Socks:
To stay dry and comfortable on the water you want a fitted, moisture-wicking base layer.  Steelheading on the North Shore in spring can mean you’ll start out fishing in morning temps at or below freezing and by lunchtime you’re basking in 60 degree sun.  Embrace the layering!  If the forecast calls for some chilly weather, I’ll usually throw on a Henley and fleece zip up or hoody over my base layer.  Finally I’ll top off with a light jacket.  It takes some experimenting to figure out what layers work best for you but the key components you must have are your base layer top and bottom and wading socks to keep any sweat away from your skin.  Cabelas, Gander Mountain and Under Armor are my recommendations for finding layering pieces.  **Just because waders have to be boring earthy tones doesn’t mean you can’t rock bright pink thermals underneath.  Embrace your cheetah print loving self in your layers girl!

Worn in addition to your polarized shades, a hat will provide more sun protection as well as reduce glare helping you see through the water even better.  My recommendation: A Minnesota Steelheader hat of course!  Not only are Minnesota Steelheader hats a good luck charm, the proceeds fund steelhead genetics research!

 Hip Packs:
Aside from shore casting, the fishing techniques we utilize for steelheading don’t require us to carry much.  Most things found in a steelheader’s bag of goodies: Scissors, pliers, small tackle box with hooks and sinkers, flies, pocket knife, spawn, file, fishing license (with trout stamp) and perhaps a few more items depending on the individual.  Hip bags and packs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found at any sporting goods store and online.  For a beginner, think simple.  You want a pack that is big enough to hold your supplies but not so big that all of your stuff rolls around leaving you reaching into a dark dungeon of chaos every time you need something.  Your selection should be comfortable to wear and easy to keep organized.

 Rods, reels and other major equipment will be covered in the days to come.  For any new angler, there is a lot of information to absorb and digest so we’ll pace ourselves a little bit.
If you have any questions, need help or have comments, feel free to post to our facebook page: or send me an email at

Tight Lines and Safe Travels,



Steelheaders are a unique breed.  Not many who try it will stick with it and of those who do, very few are women.  It is a tough sport for anyone regardless of their gender, and organizations such as Minnesota Steelheader play a pivotal role in the success of many novice anglers who are just starting out. 

Rainbow trout anglers encounter unique challenges in their quest for Steelhead and Kamloops on Minnesota’s North Shore and while the general issues are addressed very well by Minnesota Steelheader and like groups, support networks available  specifically to women are virtually nonexistent. 

Minnesota Steelheader’s new women’s program Women on the Fly, is on a mission to change that.  As an avid female North Shore angler myself, I’m familiar with the issues women face on the water.  From the comical scenarios such as trying to piddle in the woods while outfitted in waders and full rain gear, to the aggravating circumstance of being the target of an inappropriate comment by another fisherman, it’s important to know that you have a network of women you can turn to who understand and can relate.  It’s time we have a place where ladies can go to find information specific to them, powered by women, empowered for women.

Minnesota Steelheader: Women on the Fly is that place.  Women on the Fly will provide information on women-specific gear, technical articles, events, programs, advice and contact information.  Any questions you may have will come directly to and be answered by, a fellow fisherwoman.  Our ultimate goal with Women on the Fly is to provide great information, help educate and become the most dependable resource for North Shore women anglers’. We want to get women comfortably on the water, help them build the confidence and skills necessary to sustain their success as anglers on the North Shore and to be their place to ask questions, get advice, share stories and to support one another. 

Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll be posting on the Minnesota Steelheader Blog and getting a women’s gear/equipment list together to ensure you are adequately outfitted for the fast approaching Steelhead run. We have plenty more in store so be sure to keep an eye on Women on the Fly’s Facebook page:  We’ll also be posting new updates, information and articles on

Tight lines and safe travels,


Minnesota Steelheader Board Member

***If you have any ideas for future subject matter, have questions or concerns, need current condition updates or just want to say hello, don’t hesitate to shoot us an email at

Monday, April 04, 2016

MS Creel Update as of 4.03.16

WOW, talk about getting the rug yanked out from underneath...

Just when things were starting to get really interesting, mother nature played one hell of an April Fools joke on us.

Temperatures which had been doing a steady climb suddenly retreated to the cellar along with much of the fish activity.

To be sure, there are fish around, but they have developed a case of lock-jaw with average stream temps now hovering in the 31-32F range. Can you still catch them? Yes. Will you have to work your tail off to do so? You bet your sweet bippy!

Our latest creel update which includes numbers through April 3rd illustrates it pretty well:
Note the catch trend from the 29th - April 1st. The biggest player here were the daily average temps at just over 34 combined with high temps approaching 40F. If you were out at the right time of day, you were catching fish. The storm dropped both average and high temps into the 31-32 range which brought most activity to a virtual stand-still. If the water wasn't moving in the first picture, it would be frozen over. Those chunks you see in the photo are all slush. Doesn't look like much but an hour earlier, you could barely get your line in the water.

Hard to say what will happen over the next few days other than to say we've gone back into a holding pattern with the forecast calling for more cold. Beyond that, here are the latest numbers:

2016 Creel Project Day 24:
118 Rainbows reported
4.91 fish per day average
64 Steelhead
54 Kamloops
2 Brook Trout/Presumed Coasters

Lower Shore:
53 Kamloops
52 Steelhead
2 Brook Trout/Presumed Coasters

Mid Shore:
1 Kamloop
12 Steelhead

More to come!
Regards - Minnesota Steelheader

Thursday, March 31, 2016

2016 Creel Update with Numbers

Another quick numbers update as promised, just so you have an idea of where things may be at-

Total Lower Shore creel numbers from March 10th through March 31 - Day 22:
Total Rainbows Reported: 85
Total Brook Trout/Coasters Reported: 2

Steelhead Reported: 48
Kamloops Reported: 37

Average Rainbows Reported per day: 3.86
Currently not tracking numbers of Anglers reporting or CPUE, Sorry...

Mid Shore is beginning to wake up, Upper Shore still fairly sleepy. Keep watching those stream temps!
Minnesota Steelheader

March 30th Updates

Quick update for now. Brownup is accelerating, you can see the "wrap-effect" on snowline as it spins up and around the western arm of Superior. Some of this is due to the effect Superior water temps have on local conditions. There is also one hell of a sediment plume spinning out into the Lake from mostly the Nemadji.

What does it mean? Streams will begin warming far more rapidly now with browner ground and less cold snowmelt hitting the streams provided we get some sun...

We have been receiving steady creel reports so thank YOU to all who have submitted. We only have temp numbers through the 28th, but so far, trending upwards.

We did have to make one adjustment. We decided to use a different index stream for Lower Shore temps. This stream presents a much more realistic picture of stream conditions across the Lower Shore, and should be a better indicator of where things are at.

As you can see, people are catching fish. Don't get too excited though, numbers appear high, but we are really looking at a trend in this graphic. We'll try and post some actual numbers shortly, suffice to say for now the cold conditions are pretty much driving the bus with respect to numbers; lets hope for some sun or a good warm rain.

For other information on conditions and numbers, please visit this great resource:  2016 North Shore Fishing Report

Saturday, March 26, 2016

2016 Creel Reports and Status

As we said recently, we are watching conditions very closely and thanks to some early Creel Report submissions, we actually have some data analyze and post. A big MS Thank You to those who have already begun to submit reports, You folks rock!

First to consider and understand is that we again only have temp data from a couple small streams along the Lower Shore beat. While this is still invaluable, you have to understand that these streams warm far more quickly, and typically hit the initiation threshold 5-8 days before larger streams such as the Knife. Given the fact of early warming on small tribs, even these streams are not there yet:

This particular trib is probably the smallest of our data index streams, but even this one hasn't quite cracked 40 yet.

Our next index stream is a little larger, fairly comparable to the Sucker in size. You can see the effect water volume and differences in overhead cover make in the rate of warming; overall this stream is 1-3 days behind the one above.
 In both you can see the influence of the daily solar cycle on warming. You can also see how the  storm we got on March 15th and 16th affected stream temps and flows. Flows go way up, but all that cold water suppresses warming. Once it flushes from the system and we get some sun again, the classic heartbeat signature from the sun re-develops. Understanding these influences, particularly cold rain or snow once the run kicks off is important to steelheaders, you have to adjust your tactics to the conditions, cold rain or snow change how the fish behave, how much they move, where they hold etc. early in the run.

Below we see the effects once again of the storm on the 15th and 16th.  The difference here is we are not looking at stream temps, we are looking at stream discharge, flow if you like.

Even though we received a significant amount of precipitation, you can see how quickly it leaves the system. Streams on the North Shore, particularly on the Lower and Mid Shore are spate streams, that is they are heavily dependent on precipitation. They also rocket up and down quickly, so keeping an eye on conditions and adapting helps you succeed as a steelheader.

 What you also see illustrated very well here is that as flow decreases, there's that classic early-season heartbeat signature. While the underlying cause is the same, that being the daily solar cycle, just remember that because we are looking at flow, the sun is melting snow and the melt-water hitting the stream is driving the heartbeat, not increases in water temperature.

The critical point here is that while the sun plays a part in warming the stream and jump-starting the run, it is also creating a problem. As the stream begins maximum warming in the afternoons while there is still snow-pack on the ground, all that snow-melt is dumping very cold water back into the stream which actually slows warming down. Keep this in mind as you fish during the early part of the run and you'll know what part of the day is the optimal time to try and catch fish.

Putting it All Together

As we said, we are already receiving 2016 creel data, so we hope you see and understand how useful it is. Your submissions help everyone become better, more successful steelheaders.

All of the same data above is here presented in a unified chart: Flow, Temps and Creel Trend. Past MS Creel Data analysis tells us that roughly 10% of adult steelhead caught are reported prior to the initiation temperature being reached (the red line). These early fish are almost exclusively caught between average daily stream temperatures of 34° F to 38° F.

Prior to the 12th of March, there was just too much ice in the tribs to get reliable data.The storm around the 15th dumped a bunch of cold water into the tribs causing stream temps to drop by about 2° F. Once stream temps hit 34 again on the 19th of March, we started seeing fish being caught in the streams. This trend has increased as average daily temps increased from 34° F to around 36° F.

This trend will continue upwards as long as the streams continue to warm, culminating in a magical 7-21 day period of steelheading once the initiation thresholds are met. WHEN we hit that magic initiation threshold is the big question at this point. It all depends on snowpack, sun and mother nature at this point. This coming week is forecasted to be warm, but the brakes might just be stamped on if we get the predicted Polar Vortex next weekend.

The best part is we are just getting started... This process will be repeated on both the Mid and Upper Shore, and depending on the start dates for those two regions, you may just be steelheading into June.

Minnesota Steelheader