Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Trout Program - News Release

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is making changes to the way it raises, stocks and manages trout under its statewide trout program. The changes will have minimal effect on anglers but will result in an immediate savings of about $70,000 in electrical and feed expenses, and up to $200,000 annually when changes are fully implemented.

Effective this year, the DNR will close a portion of its French River Hatchery near Duluth, shift trout production among various hatcheries, and reduce or eliminate stocking in 60 lakes and streams. This will take place in areas where results have not met expectations or where self-sustaining trout populations have been established.

The new approach follows an in-depth assessment by DNR staff and implements various aspects of the DNR’s Lake Superior and southeast Minnesota trout plans. Last year, the DNR stocked 2.2 million trout at a cost of $2.4 million. In recent years the DNR’s trout program has included 615 designated trout streams, 163 designated trout lakes, 112 inland lake trout lakes, 2 two-story trout-and-warm water fishing lakes, and the 1.4 million-acre Lake Superior.

“We are reducing operating costs where they are high, and stocking efforts where the return on investment is low,” said Dirk Peterson, acting DNR fisheries chief. “We are doing this in a way that will minimize any effects on the majority of anglers.”

Anglers will not be significantly affected because stocking reductions will be in only those waters where fishing pressure was low, trout survival and growth was poor, or the stocking has resulted in a self-sustaining fishery that is no longer dependent upon stocking, Peterson added.

The upcoming changes are the result of a lengthy internal review of the DNR’s trout program. Managers revised traditional stocking recommendations based on angler use, the number of fish caught by anglers, and whether stocking still made sense based on competing warm water fish populations or other factors. This field assessment included reviewing the Lake Superior and southeast Minnesota trout plans.

Similarly, DNR staff took a hard look at the French River Hatchery, which is the agency’s most expensive hatchery to operate and the most susceptible to biosecurity issues because of its connection to Lake Superior and the entire Great Lakes system, which contains a growing number of invasive exotic species and fish diseases. To address these concerns, the agency will shift part of the French River Hatchery production to the DNR hatchery near Remer.

Specifics of the new trout plan include:
The Spire Valley Hatchery near Remer will produce 80,000 yearling rainbow trout Kamloops to be stocked in the Lester, Talmadge and French rivers. Previously, these fish had been reared at the French River Hatchery.
The French River Hatchery will produce up to 12,000 fingerlings and 25,000 yearling rainbow trout Kamloops in addition to 550,000 steelhead fry and 55,000 frylings for stocking in Lake Superior.

All brook trout production will be shifted from Spire Valley in central Minnesota to the Crystal Springs hatchery in southeastern Minnesota. The Peterson Fish Hatchery in southeastern Minnesota will continue to produce lake trout fingerlings and yearlings and rainbow trout yearlings.
More information on streams and lakes where stocking will be increased, reduced or eliminated is available on DNR Web site.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fishing with MN Twins #14

Thanks for all the kind emails regarding our presence on Kent Hrbek outdoors this week, we appreciate all who have contributed.
For those who are not aware, our Steelhead filming last spring with KHO finally made it to the airwaves. Last summer we had a few false alarms, thinking one of the KHM episodes was the show. thankfully it was not as we just got a short couple minute spot.

The show that is airing this weeks is a full show on North shore steelheading, featuring Minnesotasteelheader.com. You will see our founder, DB and field staffer, Andy. Pictured here is a shot from some pre-filming scouting. Can anyone guess the river?

You can still check out the show, in fact, it is on tonight on the FSNorth network at 7PM. Check your local listings as it may air a bit earlier or later due to prior sporting events. You can also click here for more listing times.

Tight lines real soon.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Bois Brule River Spring Steelhead

The past is prologue...

I'm not sure which philosopher said that but he must have been a steelheader. I finally got a chance to plug the 2009 spring data into my historical data from the Brule River, so I thought I'd post it.

Click thumbnail for larger image

What you are looking at is a snapshot of the spring 2009 return data vs. the historical flow and return data for spring conditions on the Brule. Let's face it, the North Shore lags the South Shore by a period of time when it comes to steelhead runs, and lots of us can't wait to get a line in the water after a long winter.

Now, keep in mind that this is NOT -repeat NOT- a prediction of when the run is going to occur. It is simply a representation of past flow, run return and ice-out activity. The complex interactions between flow, temperature, photoperiod (length of daylight), year-class strength, recruitment etc. all play a part in the year-to-year fluctuations in the size and actual timing of steelhead returns. Yet having access to past data can give you a good idea as to when to start watching conditions more closely in a given year as annual runs and peaks tend to fall somewhere within the historical period with a few exceptions.

As you can see, 2009 return activity fell largely within the historical averages although the late returns were slightly higher than the historical means. Start, peak and end dates also closely followed the historical model. Again, this tends to hold true much of the time which is why the historical data is helpful.

Couple points regarding the Brule:
Remember that the bulk of the steelhead return to the Brule in fall, then winter over in the stream. This is one reason the Brule fishes well early. Conditions in the upper Brule, namely temperature, can lead to spawning activity as early as mid-March. However the spring-run fish historically tend to peak closer to mid-April as shown. It is therefor not uncommon to find a mix of spawned out as well as fresh fish early on which may lead to some confusion. Don't automatically assume that the run is already winding down just because you get a post-spawn hen shortly after opener, in fact the best is typically yet to come.

If you had a thermometer stuck in the lower river, that is to say a point north or downstream of Highway 2, you would be looking for average daily temps to be breaking that magic 40 degree mark any time around the first week in April. Once that happens, spring run activity begins in earnest. Once the average daily stream temps maintain between 40-49 (the temperature at which most return/spawning activity occurs), fishing the back-side of bumps in flow will be your best shot at finding active, fresh-run steelhead.

One thing to watch out for early on the Brule which also occurs on the North Shore:
High daytime air-temperatures and sun in spring are normally a good thing. On days like this, stream temperatures can increase rapidly leading to very active fish. However, when there is still a lot of snowpack, warm days can absolutely kill fishing leaving you scratching your head as to what the heck happened.

On those early-season warm days, increased air-temps and sun lead to increased melting of snowpack and remaining ice. As melt accelerates towards early afternoon, flows increase but stream temps actually decrease due to the addition of near-freezing water into the system. This lowered stream temp changes what the fish are doing. As long as you recognize it soon enough, you can still salvage your day. This is just one reason why it's critical to carry a thermometer.

Given lowered stream temps, you can do several things:
1. Look for slower, deeper holding water out of the main current. Dark bottomed holes are a good bet because they tend to absorb sunshine which can warm surrounding water, and even a 1-2 degree temp change can make the difference. Steelhead will hold in slower water when it's colder in any event due to their metabolism and absent slightly warmer water.
2. You can stream-hop looking for smaller streams that tend to warm more readily. This is a lot more practical on the North Shore where streams are a lot closer together.

Just about 5 weeks and counting!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

2010 Great Waters Flyfishing Expo

The 2010 Minneapolis Great Waters Flyfishing Expo will be held March 26-28th at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel Minneapolis South.

Perhaps not the greatest timing as I believe the 2010 South Shore/Brule River opener is that very same weekend. Either way, it's a great show if you've never attended. Vendors/Seminars TBA.