More 2013 MS Creel Project Analysis
Very late, but trickling in as promised...
Minnesota Steelheader would first like to thank YOU! Without your voluntary participation in the Creel Project, we would not be able to put together information that benefits us all. MS followers rose spectacularly to the challenge in 2013, and it is beginning to pay significant dividends with respect to the who, what, why, where, when and how of North Shore steelhead fishing.
I think once all of the 2013 results are in, we'll put together a sort of executive summary that places all of the data into a historical, current and future context. That way all of you data-junkies can pick it apart, make suggestions, tell us we're full of beans, whatever. That kind of thing is important because it helps us make the content that much better, and more understandable for everyone.
So without further typical rambling on my part:
2013 Lower Shore Results
One of the problems we had in 2013 from an analysis standpoint was that the floods from 2012 knocked out the Knife trap along with all of the various monitoring stations, so we have no temperature and limited French trap data to consider in the context of the creel data. Based upon the rest of the Middle and Upper Shore information, we know there once again was a strong correlation between the daily average and high stream temps, and when adult steelhead began their upstream migrations en-masse. So while we can't demonstrate that point in the Lower Shore chart, there are some interesting things here.
Run initiation temps likely hit the week of April 30th. We probably would have seen more significant catch but for the flows. This is a great illustration of the relationship between flows and fish movement. What we know from the DNR scientific literature is that there is a point with respect to flow velocities and volume at which upstream movement ceases for all intents and purposes. On the Knife for example, this threshold is right around the 500CFS (cubic feet per second) mark as noted in the literature. Fish that already are in the stream will hunker down in whatever cover they can find, and anglers have to adjust tactics accordingly. Looking at the week of April 30th note that peak flows on the Knife, which is the index station we use for charting Lower Shore creel, averaged around 1150cfs.
By the week of May 7th, average flows were dropping to near the 500cfs threshold, and creel increased accordingly for likely two reasons: More people out putting in more time as conditions improved, and more new fish moving into as well as up through the various tributaries. Keep in mind that you can use stations like the Knife to infer what conditions are like on surrounding tributaries, and therefor make decisions on go/no go; so keep that 500cfs mark in mind when thinking about the Lower Shore.We're not saying fishing is futile when flows are above 500cfs, but you will definitely have to change tactics.
2013 Mid Shore Creel Results
We had good early participation in the Creel Project on the Mid Shore. This is important because it is critical to us to capture more data on what you might call the front end and back end of the run. Typically the DNR creel, which is a scientific creel, is structured in a much different way. There are also budget constraints which limit the time frame in which the Creel Census folks are out and working; and those gaps are the ones we are trying to fill in the data. Two interesting things to note here: The first is the strong correlation between the temperature initiation threshold and returns to creel. Note the sharp increase in catch once the threshold is reached (week of May 7th).
The second item is the creel and flow relationship. Here again we see that during the initial portion of the run, higher flows during the week of April 30th to May 6th barely produced a blip in catch (Kamloops being a different story, see Upper Shore notes); however once we reached the threshold, the subsequent bump in flow the week of May 28th, steelhead catch rates also increased. Now I know, it's not that clear because we lost data transmission from the station around May 21st, but we have just enough to illustrate the point.
What I currently believe, and this has been validated over and over again in the both the creel and trap data, is that stream temperatures appear to have the greatest influence over fish movement during the initial portions of the run. It goes a long way towards explaining why some years you have rock-star flows early on, but nobody seems to be catching fish. Once those initiation temperatures are hit, and stream temps remain above that threshold, flow appears to take over as the primary influence on upstream fish movement.
2013 Upper Shore Creel Results
Once again, strong apparent correlation between the run initiation temp threshold and creel. Note the higher Kamloops catch very early on. The DNR scientific literature notes slightly lower run and spawning temps in Kamloops and I believe we are seeing that here as well as in the Mid Shore numbers above. Higher flows during the week of May 21st (post initiation temp) appears to have triggered quite a bit of subsequent upstream movement. I suspect that the peak flows along the Upper Shore around the 21st were flirting with that flow threshold where upstream movement ceases, which might explain the delay between this flow bump and the peak of the creel; only more time and data will tell.
Other interesting items of note from 2013 are that runs appeared to have kicked off more or less simultaneously shore-wide, but this isn't always the case. Historically what we see is a somewhat orderly progression from south to north. In fact we see this and can track it from southern Lake Michigan, up through the South Shore of Lake Superior, along the North Shore and on up into Canada. Much of this is due to the difference in latitude and the rate at which each geographical region warms in the spring (Climate). The historical data shows us this because it filters out the local year to year fluctuations in the rate of warming. Those local fluctuations (Weather) are the primary reasons you can't predict "The Run" from year to year; but you can use the historical data along with charting local stream conditions, e.g. temps, to get a feel for when things might get going. This is where annual Creel Project data pays dividends.
At any rate, more to come. I'll keep plugging in the numbers and doing some analysis, we need to glean what we can from the 2013 trap data, incorporate it, then plug it into the historical data.