Friday, April 29, 2011
Last year was a bit of an oddball simply because of how early things started. 2011 is beginning to be an oddball due to the wild daily swings in temps and flows we are getting. It's certainly affecting fishing success. Lots of hard-slogging days...
Keep in mind too that there is a threshold discharge which limits (or ceases) upstream movement of steelhead and presumably kamloops. It doesn't mean fish aren't there or that it's futile fishing, it just means the fish are hunkered down and you need to change tactics. This halt only lasts until flows drop below that particular level, and on the Knife it corresponds to roughly 500cfs. I'd be interested to find out if there is a universal North Shore constant in there somewhere with regards to current speed (in mph) as a limiting factor on upstream movement. (Second update - I spooled the March-April flow data but here's the big caveat: There were some significant ice-dams on the Knife prior to the gauge going live. The first ice-dam is noted on the graphic, but it's hard to say how much the later spike is ice-affected. The flow based on gauge readings was off the charts, and I can only say the flow rates were ice affected. This is partly why the USGS doesn't display flow during the winter months and is a whole other technical argument. At any rate, take the flow rate prior to ice-out with a grain of salt).
Anyway, enough nerdliness, here's the latest graphic. If I were an artiste I would entitle it: "Crayola on Crack". Enjoy!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
One additional note: The Upper Shore numbers seem low, but they are always low because there are simply less people to interview (less people fishing) than on the Lower/Mid Shores. So it's an artificial low if you follow that logic, not necessarily low numbers of fish. Also, the trap numbers are capture numbers by date, not total numbers (Click for Larger Images):
Lower Shore Creel:
Mid Shore Creel:
Upper Shore Creel:
Knife River Trap:
French River Trap:
Monday, April 25, 2011
Stream flows shorewide rose on 4/23 and are now decreasing but running high and clear.
Several of us MN Steelheaders will be on the water later this week. Stay tuned as we hope to update the reports daily. Reminder that Sunday is our river clean up. This is open to everyone willing to volunteer a bit of time. With enough help we should all be able to be back on the water in no time. Please spread the word and we will see you on Sunday.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
"I had an otter the size of a lab run off with my 8 lb looper. I had to track the looper through the grass by following spilled spawn. I came upon the otter and had to chase him off my fish. Crazy!"
I have seen all sorts of wildlife on the shore during steelheading trips but never experience ia fish thief.
Keep you eyes out for this poacher the next time you are in steelhead, or should I say, otter country.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Mid Shore Creel Graphic:
Upper Shore Creel Graphic:
Thursday, April 21, 2011
It appears that the initial push of steelhead from last week was better than we thought; and while overall temps decreased in Lower Shore tribs, two things happened which certainly helped fishing:
First, the stream temps didn't bottom out, which meant that fish which did enter the tribs were quite active despite the snow, wind and cold air temps. Second, discharge decreased despite the storm to very good levels of flow and clarity which was a big change from just a few days prior. Those that adjusted tactics based on stream conditions did very well. Once again carrying a thermometer is critical.
It will be interesting to see the trap numbers once they start coming out. The creel numbers are a great tool for getting a sense of what kinds of numbers are already in the streams, while the trap numbers give you a good sense of the overall stage of the steelhead and kamloops returns.
One item of practical note- We should already be seeing the second push of fish on both the Lower and Mid-North Shore.
At any rate, here is the latest temperature data for the Lower North Shore. We've taken all the individual trib data and averaged it out so it's a little less confusing. The full chart looked like I got out a box of Crayola 64's after drinking an entire 12-pack of barley-pop... The chart depicts the daily average and maximum temps (the blue lines) along with the average and max temps at which steelhead and kamloops begin their initial returns (the red lines). We've also added the Lower Shore Creel numbers along with average daily flow (yellow line) for one Lower Shore index stream. The whole point of these mathematical gymnastics are that as the run progresses, you'll be able to watch how various environmental variables affect both catch rates (creel) as well as the overall timing and/or stage of the run. Keep in mind that the temps are actual, but the flow has been divided by 10 to better show against the temps depicted (Click Chart for Larger Image):
Monday, April 18, 2011
For those not aware, Minnesota Steelheader is participating in the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources Adopt-a-River Program. Our first scheduled clean up will take place Sunday May 1st at 11:30am. on the Sucker river.
We will meet in the parking lot on Scenic HWY 61 with trash bags and gloves on hand. We appreciate any time you can provide. This is open to EVERYONE! Don't be shy this is a great opportunity to give back to our fishery, meet fellow anglers and share tales & tips.
We are really hoping for a great turn out. The more volunteers the faster we can complete our efforts and get back on the water. Please send us a note if you are planning on joining us for this event. We are also planning an informal get together at a local area watering hole for a beverage and a fun, casual meet & greet Saturday Evening, April 30th. If interested shoot us a note and we will give you more details on location.
Bring a friend and let’s meet on the water! You can emails through this link: EMAIL US
Here is the latest creel info from our friends at the DNR:
From 4/15 through 4/18, water temperatures ranged from 33 to 35 in the morning and 40 to 42 in the afternoon on the Lower and Middle Shore. Water temperatures were 33 to 35 on Upper Shore tributaries.
From 4/15 through 4/18, interviewed anglers caught 51 Steelhead and 33 Kamloops on the Lower Shore, 19 Steelhead and 9 Kamloops on the Middle Shore, and 3 Steelhead and 1 Kamloops on the Upper Shore. The Knife and French River Traps were opened in the morning on 4/18. Stream flows on the Lower and Middle Shore are decreasing and becoming clear, while flows on the Upper Shore are still running high but becoming clearer.
The run is on - get out and fish!
Friday, April 15, 2011
The spring creel will begin on the Upper Shore on 4/16. The Knife and French River Traps will be opened on 4/18. Stream flows on the Lower Shore are decreasing and becoming clear, while flows on the Middle and Upper Shore are still running high with debris and ice chunks. The brief warm up on 4/12 and 4/13 resulted in a run of fish on Lower Shore streams, but nighttime air temperatures the rest of the week were below freezing and have slowed things down. Two to six inches of snow is predicted for this weekend, with night time air temperatures below freezing.
One can also read fishing reports updated on the DNR website on Mondays and Fridays by clicking here: MN DNR Reports.You can also call the DNR office at 218-525-0853 and selecting 1 for the fishing report updated every Monday and Friday.
I apologize in advance, the SD card on my camera apparently fried. I took a whole slug of photos I wanted to post, but all I got when I went to download them last night was a formatting error...
Flows were well up on all the streams we stopped at and some of them are still screaming. Temperatures varied widely, but ranged from 36-43 degrees depending on when we stopped (morning or afternoon). The big baugaboo of the day was the wind which was cold and relentless. Thank goodness for the sun and some sheltered areas because at 15-25mph gusting to over 30mph at times, certain areas were not a lot of fun to fish.
We hit fish everywhere we went, however actually landing one was a different story. I am sure I personally missed a fair number of fish just due to the wind. The gusts made keeping a tight line impossible at times, and often pulled the business end up and out of the zone. That was probably the worst fish-killer since keeping it within a very narrow zone was critical due to conditions.
The most productive presentation/pattern was high-sticking big, bright orange, cerise or gold yarn on mono with either egg scent or a smaller spawnbag. The critical piece again was fishing the right areas and then keeping the presentation in that narrow zone. The Knife was a perfect example: It was 500cfs dropping to about 450cfs, dirty and 39 degrees while we were there. We started looking for quieter water first and then dialing things in. Even in the quieter water, the current was cooking, so we used short tippet sections (under 12").
We also overweighted on shot-droppers to the point that we had almost constant bottom contact as opposed to the every 1-3 foot tick of a more normal presentation. I call it skidding for lack of a better term because that's what it feels like your weight is doing.
The purpose of skidding is two-fold: First, fish will tightly hug bottom in high flows, and with the reduced visibility, they can't see far so you need to put it on their nose. Secondly, skidding slows down your presentation which again, in severly limited visibility, allows the fish to see it for a much longer time.
I'm going to commit steelhead heresy here, but I think it's a fair point to bring up. The accepted wisdom is that your presentation needs to be moving at the same speed as the current or steelhead will reject it. I think that's mostly true, although fishing the chocolate yeti (like the Knife was yesterday), means you need to be a little more flexible with your thinking.
A perfect example of this: I know a person that puts hundreds of hours in on a well known trib each year; in fact, it's pretty much the only place he fishes. He also takes obscene numbers of fish on yarn tipped with waxies. What's different is that he fishes by walking his yarn down through holes, stopping it and twitching it for long periods of time. Nothing at all natural about that presentation, but he's still very successful.
At any rate, we found fish tight to the bottom and hugging well-defined seams between slow and fast water, sometimes really close to the bank. I also got bumped in the legs while wading by several fish that were facing downstream and holding in a large back-eddy. You can fish floats very effectively to take advantage of the back eddies, but I didn't want to run back to the truck. It is another trick to consider though in really high water.
We missed a number of fish and broke several off while fishing the Knife alone, one of which was a really big, really chrome steelhead so the fish were definately around. The increase in temps over the 12th-14th definately kicked off the first push of fish. Check the latest DNR creel report and consider what they are emphasizing against the latest Minnesota Steelheader temp data (Click for Larger Image): Problem is that we're now seeing temps nosedive which is really going to slow down initial returns. This weekend is going to be tough despite the fact that there are fish around. They're just going to be hunkered down without a whole lot of movement going on. Once again, think big,bright, smelly and slow... I'll continue to update the following as information comes in, but it's interesting to watch how temps influence the initial returns of fish until we maintain that magic 40 degree mark. After that watch flow take over (Click for Larger Image): It's going to be a tough weekend for sure, but fish are there to be had and you can't catch them if you're sitting at home! Regards- NMF
Monday, April 11, 2011
Wow we're close! Using the DNR steelhead return study data along with plotting the temperatures of several Lower Shore tribs, you can see we're getting very close to the main returns beginning. No question we have fish movement going on already, but it's just first scouts as it were. I wish I would have had all of today's data, but I thought it better to get the chart put together and worry about what happened today with temps tomorrow (big jump across the board). Lets just say things are really heating up. Man what a cruddy joke. I'm sorry, pretty pathetic I know.... Remember that according to DNR data, "Upstream movement of adult steelhead in the spring initiates when maximum daily water temperatures exceed 4.4*C (39.92*F) and mean daily water temperatures exceed 3.3*C (37.94*F)." Schreiner et.al. Minnesota DNR. As you can see, the available temp data is showing were pretty close. Tomorrow should be interesting... Only item of note is that I'm a little suspicious of the Sucker data. Seems a little low, but then again it's been getting a ton of melt. Crazy readings this afternoon though, so we'll check it tomorrow. Anyway, here's the chart (Click for Larger Image): I'll be posting other numbers as soon as I can run them through the matrix.
Here is the latest report on fishing and conditions from our friends a the Minnesota DNR:
From 4/8 through 4/10, water temperatures ranged from 34-35 in the morning and 35-37 in the afternoon on the Lower Shore. From 4/8 through 4/10, interviewed anglers caught 16 Kamloops, 2 Steelhead, and 1 coho and on the Lower Shore. The spring creel will begin on the Middle Shore on 4/14 and on the Upper Shore on 4/16. The Knife and French River Traps will be opened to catch fish sometime in the next week depending on water temperatures and flows. Streams shorewide have high flows with a lot of debris and ice chunks, after the warm air temperatures on Saturday and rain on Sunday. We do not expect the smelt run to begin until water temperatures exceed 45 degrees overnight for several days in a row, which will most likely not occur for several weeks.
One can also read fishing reports updated on the DNR website on Mondays and Fridays by clicking here: MN DNR Reports
You can also call the DNR office at 218-525-0853 and selecting 1 for the fishing report updated every Monday and Friday.
Friday, April 08, 2011
The spring creel on the middle and upper shore will begin when conditions become appropriate.
Today we received teh follow report from the DNR. Our field Staffer, GL, has been on the water virtually everyday this past week checking out the conditions. His report estimates that by mid week several of the lower shore rivers should be in good shape to fish. Next weekend he feels should be a good bet if you are a weekend angler.
MN DNR report:
On Wednesday, April 6 I drove from the Lester River north to the Temperance River to assess stream conditions. Water temperatures from the Lester to the French were 35-36 degrees; from the Sucker to the Beaver were 34 degrees; and from the Baptism to the Temperance were 33 degrees. The stream channels downstream of the upstream barriers were 75% ice free from the Lester to the French; 50% ice free from the Sucker to the Beaver; and 25% ice from the Baptism to the Temperance. Anglers stated they had caught either Kamloops or Steelhead along the lake shore adjacent to river mouths on five streams. The Lester River was the only stream anglers stated they had caught fish in the stream.
We are excited to say that we just received our first batch of Minnesota Steelheader window decals from our printer today. Our goal is to have them available online over the weekend. Check out our website in the next 48 hours for how you can get your hands on one.
We will be selling these through our website for a nominal cost. All proceeds will go towards growing Minnesota Steelheader and our cause.
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
The Poll recently expired and after collecting the data we received a tie with the two highest votes gong to the Sucker River and the Devil Track River. The Baptism River was a close second.
Through the course of the poll we received a variety of comments and opinions as to which river would be the best fit for us. We received feedback from interest in helping rivers from the Lester River all the way up to the Flute Reed River- a pretty impressive span.
Reiterating what we stated previously, our selection process needed to focus on a few key elements: level of visible trash/pollution, accessibility for a diverse group of volunteers, and overall steelhead habitat. All the rivers that were in the poll have the steelhead habitat so that pretty much cancels itself off as a primary focal point.
The river accessibility element on the other hand varies dramatically along the North Shore and deserved a close look. We have a diverse group of friends at MS, from your teenagers to veteran anglers in their 70's. Selecting a river that requires some major hiking or wadding in tough conditions could dramatically limit the amount of volunteers able to assist for stream-side clean-up. The distance up the shore is also a factor. With the majority of the Steelhead fishing done South of Grand Marais, it is questionable whether we will have an adequate volunteer staff willing to make the journey for a clean up day in the upper shore area.
Finally we have the trash/pollution element. This is obviously the biggest factor in our decision. Our Field Staffers referred to years of mental notes as to what river consistently has had an issue with trash along trails, river, parking area etc. We also looked at which river would also get a fair amount of tourist pressure throughout the year. We all know that the trash thing is not just from careless anglers, tourist play a role in this as well.
Now I know some of you voiced your opinion on some pretty sweet Steelhead rivers, but the trash/pollution was not as bad as some other rivers. Sure the fishing may be more pristine, maybe fewer anglers, and more awe inspiring, but we are are not adopting a river for the coolness factor. We are adopting a river that needs help from a group of willing volunteers - Minnesota Steelheader friends.
After a collective review we decided that the river to adopt is the Sucker River. The Sucker fits all 3 of our criteria well. The proximity is convenient for the majority and the accessibility is not to difficult even under tough conditions. The habitat is good and the fish, in our opinion are getting bigger. I won't go into details but let me just say a couple of us have measured some trophy class steelhead in the past 5 years in stretches of the Sucker River. I think we can all agree that the trash issue definitely needs to be addressed on this River as well.
So, We moved forward with the DNR and are now the official Sponsor of the Sucker River. The section we committed to is from Lake Superior inland to the upstream boundary. We will focus extra awareness in our clean up efforts in the lower reaches of the river that receive the most fishing and tourist pressure. We plan to have 2 outings annually. The first date has yet to be finalized but we are looking at sometime before May 15th. We will also have a fall outing sometime during the fall salmon run in September.
If you are interested in volunteering please send us an email through our website or via facebook... sorry no email links here, demented spammers like blogs. Anyway, we will give you more of the specific details on date, time and place. We are also working on plans for a casual off the water meeting around the clean-up date to share some suds, stories, and fishing tips. Check back for more details both here and on our facebook page.
Don't be a stranger! Now is your chance to step up and give back a little to our fishery and meet some great anglers to boot!
Monday, April 04, 2011
If you catch a tagged steelhead, leave the tag in the fish and record the number. Report the tag number, along with the date, location, and if the fish was harvested or released to the Lake Superior Fisheries. With this info you can find when and where the fish was tagged and also the age of the fish.
Remember that unclipped steelhead cannot be harvested in Minnesota waters.
Kamloops are also tagged but the tags used are a bit different than those given to our steelhead.
The DNR uses unnumbered plastic tags for the Kamloops strain rainbow trout that are captured at the French River fish trap. The color tag used changes each year (table below). These tags quickly identify which fish have already been captured and used in spawning operations at the French River Hatchery.