On Your Marks...

What a difference a couple days can make!

With the influx of recent warm weather suddenly the male chickadees, cardinals and jays are all singing their spring songs and setting up territories. Geese are looking for nesting ponds and the local toms are strutting like mad in an effort to impress the ladies. I even saw a red-winged blackbird male yesterday. Time to look hard at conditions on the Shore...

Just before the storm hit on the North Shore, things were moving fast and early. SE Wisconsin tribs were opening up fast. The Brule was open all the way to between FF and 13, there was significant brown-up in the basin, and the Knife was showing signs of ice breakup which was all highly unusual.

The storm up this-a-way only delayed progress, but things are moving again. 'Couple items of great interest: Tribs on the Michigan side are open and blowing out from Kenosha to north of Milwaukee. What's really nuts is that some of these tribs have already hit optimal temps to trigger large runs of steelhead nearly 2-1/2 to 3 weeks early-


And despite the fact that the Shore received a decent shot of snow, the surprizing thing was that the St. Louis and particularly Nemadji were pumping hard.







This first shot is of the Duluth/Superior arm of the Lake out along the Bayfield Penninsula to the Apostles and Chequamegon Bay. The shot was captured just as the storm was hitting and illustrates a "normal" looking water-column (from this altitude you can actually see down quite a ways into the lake):









Compare that with a shot taken after the storm, but still nearly two weeks ago. Even with the lower end locked up in ice and snow, the rivers were pumping like mad. I think, particularly the case with the Nemadji, was that the upper reaches were in an area that was getting rain. This got into the system and carried large volumes of sediment out into the lake. Check out the significant sediment plume noted by the red circle as well as the smaller one coming from the tribs in Chequamegon Bay:














I can guarantee you this has gotten the fishes attention. So where does that put us? Well, things are happening early and fast all over the Great Lakes. We still have river ice and low temps to contend with, but forcasts this week for Knife River are for temps in the mid-50's all week along with rain. This could potentially open the tribs up quick. The next item to watch closely are the temps. Recall that upstream movement of adult steelhead in numbers is initiated by temperatures which reach a particular threshold. Yes, we will get fish moving into tribs earlier, particularly kamloops, but not the big numbers until that occurs. After that, flow is king.

Until then, the amount of remaining snow will dictate how quickly we get to that point. The reason is that as all the snow melts, it contributes lots of water to the tribs, but that water is typically just above freezing. Until the streams open up, snowpack diminishes, and the sun has a chance to warm things from the bottom up on a daily basis, snowmelt will keep plunging temps back down. Pretty good example from the Sucker here just yesterday:


Note the rising temps coupled with the rising flow. As melt increased, cold water flooded the system and tanked temps almost immediately. That's what we're going to be dealing with over the next week or two for sure. Until then, we'll keep watching, but don't forget to get that gear ready!

Regards-
NMF

Comments

steelhd said…
Great article, I am trying to plan a long weekend on the shore from LA. I know mid-April is the best bet, but with this wierd winter, I am thinking things might happen a little sooner then normal!
Sotafish said…
great info. I don't know if this will influence when I go fishing but it still is nice to know potential run times. Thanx. Keep it up.
NMF said…
I think even were things to kick off early, you would still be fine with that mid-April date.

The only question would be figuring out where fish are most active: Lower, Mid or Upper Shore. A good bet would be to check the flow links on the home page, see what's open, then figure out what the index streams (Knife/Sucker, Baptism and Poplar) are doing temp-wise.

That will give you a good indication of where the stage of the run is at for each region. We'll likely be posting some of that information anyway on the blog. Not for individual streams mind; but moreso for each of the creel regions (Lower, Mid & Upper Shore).

Regards-

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