Monday, October 23, 2006

Pink Salmon: What really happened?

There have been a lot of rumors swimming around over the years as to how the Pink Salmon became full time residents of Lake Superior. We figured it is time to tell the real story.

It dates back to 1956 when approximately 21,000 fingerling pink salmon, on their way to a tributary to Hudson Bay, were unintentionally released into the Current River in Thunder Bay, Canada. These pinks were grossly underestimated. Critics saw these pinkies, aka humpbacks, as the least likely of all the exotic salmon to survive in the fresh water of Gitchigumi. But to much dismay, in 1959, two spawning pink salmon were caught in two separate tributaries, one in the Cross River and one in the Sucker River.

Since those first days back in ’59 our Pinks have been running the streams and rivers of the North Shore on a two year cycle. Yup, two years, that is it. During the 60’s and 70’s the Pink population exploded in record numbers. The dramatic increase in numbers was considered an annoyance by some and heaven to others. The impressive population peaked in 1979 and has yet to see similar masses.

In the 70’s the odd year Pink migration experienced a slight deviation in the two year spawning cycle. The pinks had established an even-year run. First recorded in 1976 in Ontario’s Steel River, the Pink Salmon continues today to spawn in even as well as odd years.

Since the initial introduction, the Pink Salmon has adapted quite well to its home in Lake Superior, reproducing naturally. The average spawning size each fall is approx. 13” – 15” long and weighing in at about a pound or so. The males develop a distinct hump on their back during the spawning run, hence the name humpback or humpy. The pinks also start to deteriorate pretty quickly upon entering the rivers, turning a green then blackish color. Upon entering the rivers, a whitish fungus also starts to grow on the skin and fines of the Pinks. This is a sure sign the fish are near the end of their life cycle.

Pinks are difficult to catch but, with the right technique and flies you just might get to experience what all the hype is about.

Feel free to contact us for more information on Pink Salmon or other North Shore species. Minnesota Steelheader and staff are here to lend a helping hand.

Some information was gather from “The Superior North Shore” by Thomas F. Waters

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

October Salmon Reports

Quick update, I stopped at nearly every river from the Lester up to the Indian Reservation last weekend. It was mostly a leaf watching and hiking weekend but of course I brought a couple rods along.

The pinks were in every river with enough water. A lot of them are in rough shape but you still can find fresh fish if you look around. A stop at the French revealed a pool full of chinook, so I took my time at a nearby river and finally spotted a mongo buck holding in fast water near cover. He absolutely smashed a purple esl. It was my biggest king in my two years of fishing the north shore.

I continued up the shore and found many pinks but the kings were indeed rare. The remaining kings I spotted on Saturday were much smaller and hanging out in slow pools. I never have much luck without current. On Sunday a fish bigger than the surrounding pinks materialized at the head of a strech of deeper gravel on a mid shore river. A dozen casts later I was tied into a fresh, fat little hen chinook.

All in all it was a great trip, the leaves were beautiful, the hikes to the waterfalls were awesome as always, and I snuck in a few nice fish to boot. ~Jesse

Thursday, October 05, 2006

September Coho


Even in low water you can catch a salmon or two, if you know where to look. The key is to find a river with enough water to bring in the fish. Next, find the deep pools and holes. Realize you may have to offer up some info to the occasional tourist. If you are not seeing tourists you may be searching for your quarry in the wrong location.

Once you find a river with decent water flow, focus on the pools. Salmon will congregate in these deep pools for protection and comfort. Due to the low water, many of the pools call for a slow presentation. This is not like high water yarn fly drifting. Sinkers are usually not needed. In fact, sinkers can actually do more damage than good. With the slow water come slow, natural presentations. Stick to a natural dead drift, swinging, or stripping, depending on your selection of fly. Our Method this past weekend was a combination of a dead drift and slow strip of a Hercules fly – a bead head wooly bugger modification.

When it comes to fall North Shore fishing, be prepared to fish all water levels; doing so will increase your odds of having a successful fishing trip. Oh, and lots of flies, sunglasses and a camera should top your trip list.

Feel free to leave your comments to this or any of our blog entries.

Tight lines to all-----<><

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Trout and Salmon time

With the close of the 2006 Minnesota inland trout season came beautiful fall colors and peaceful weather along the North Shore. Though most of the North Shore Streams were mere trickles slowly gurgling down to the big lake, a few of them carried enough water to welcome the early bird fall spawners.

The rivers we fished were only a few. Some secluded inland streams and some of the mid-shore Lake Superior tributaries. The Rivers along the North Shore this time of year are prime time for Pink Salmon, Coho and even coaster brook trout. Read your regulations first! The brook trout season below the posted boundaries closed Sept. 5th. If you catch one, get her back in the water ASAP!

Back to the Pinkies… they are in. We fished a few of the rivers between Silver Bay and Cascade Park. Pinks were in all rivers fished and in good numbers considering the low, low water. We found the deep holes to be the most productive areas. Good old Hercules (see our fly box) found his way down in these holes and managed to catch some rather bright pinkies, and a nice 21” Coho.

As for the nice brookie pictured above…. Let’s just say he was worth the entire trip. He was not too happy when an egg sucking leach passed by; he crushed it! Measuring in at 16”, this boy went off too spawn another day.