2014 Lower Shore Creel Project Results

    Once again in 2014, Minnesota Steelheader followers stepped up to the plate; without your continued support and reporting, none of this is possible. We here at Minnesota Steelheader say, "Thank You!"
2014 Lower Shore Daily Trends
    We use the daily trends as our primary means of:
  • Looking at pre-run conditions
  • Assessing when significant upstream migration is likely or about to occur
  • As a way of illustrating all of the granular interactions between the fish, the flow and the temperature on a daily basis.
    Note the red arrows at various points on each chart, these will be discussed, and each point will be noted by a corresponding text highlight at the start of the paragraph. In other words simply jump from the discussion to the chart, find the corresponding date, look at the humps and bumps in the data
    Annually, once we start seeing signs of ice-pack movement on index streams in February and/or March, we begin tracking the stream temps. As Creel reports start rolling in, we track those trends against the daily temperature and flow values which results in the Daily chart below.
    2014 Lower Shore tracking began in late March, but our first reports did not come in until April 12th. These were all early fish comprised mostly of kamloops with a few steelhead mixed in. Interestingly we now have enough of a sample size to begin disproving or proving some of the ideas regarding initiation temperatures, as well as to begin calculating percentages of fish returning to creel -  both pre and post initiation (See the last chart).
    On April 20th, the daily high stream temps finally cracked 40°F, which likely generated some steelhead movement. The reason we say "likely" is that we're still not 100% sure if these were new up bound fish being reported, or simply that catch rates of fish already in-stream increased due to the increased temperature; it's probably a little of both. You have to remember that these fish are creatures of metabolism, and cold water changes where, how, and how often they are feeding on any given day. Sometimes finding pockets of water with even a 1-2 degree increase makes all the difference while fishing early in the run.
    By April 22nd, stream flows were sharply climbing through 1300cfs which effectively froze up-bound movement (note the decrease in trend). Studies on this index stream indicate that upstream movement effectively ceases at around the 500cfs mark, and fishing becomes all but impossible due to high flow velocities as well as suspended sediment loads. We're talking yoo-hoo, blown-out, chocolate yeti conditions, and the creel rates reflect this.
    On April 28th, catch rates again began to increase as flows began dropping back into that 500cfs range. We had about three days of respite from the brown maelstrom before flows rocketed up again.
    On May 3rd, the average daily stream temps finally hit the initiation threshold, but there was a roughly 3-day lag before catch rates of up bound fish increased significantly due to the high flows. As soon as flows began dropping into the 500cfs range, it was game-on. Past years data demonstrates that ordinarily, the majority of upstream movement of steelhead increases significantly, and almost immediately, upon that threshold being achieved and maintained barring any significant high-flow event. What this also illustrates is that once initiation temperatures are achieved and maintain, steelhead begin upstream migration in earnest. Subsequent to the initiation threshold, flow takes over as a primary influence on the remaining upstream movement. I suppose the working short-hand model at this point, at least until subsequent years of creel data prove the idea to be wrong is:
  • Early run primary influence = Temperature
  • Post initiation primary influence = Flow
    Probably a concept you'll want to keep in mind as you are planning and trying to put yourself into the best position to be a successful steelheader on the North Shore. Well, unless you can fish every day, or at least several times a week, which unfortunately a lot of us can not.
    The spike in creel on the 9th actually occurred just after the 1300cfs peak as flows were dropping again. You can see the sharp effects of precipitation on a spate-stream in the chart as flows tend to rocket up and down with precipitation.
    The peaks in creel on the 12th and 19th are both subsequent waves of new fish entering the stream on increasing flow due to further precipitation events. Catch rates continued to be good through May 26th, but as soon as flow dropped into the 150cfs range, these rates decreased sharply.
    One last item to note about the chart, the creel catch is a trend (I won't bore you with the statistical math involved), not actual numbers of fish caught. In other words the spike on May 9th doesn't equal 25 fish reported, the actual number of fish caught and reported was actually much higher.

2014 Lower Shore Weekly Averages
    We use the weekly averages to:
  • Illustrate average flow, temperature and creel catch for each week during "The Run"
  • Filter out the "noise" in the daily charts in a way that is more intuitive to see and understand
  • Illustrate fish movement post-ice-out, pre-initiation and post initiation
  • Illustrate the overall current-year run picture for each Region of the Shore: Lower, Middle and Upper
  • Use each year's weekly average to produce a historical run picture for all the years we have data, the "Big Picture" 
    This is a fairly simple chart to understand which is why we like it. You can quickly see that post-ice-out, flows increase (largely due to snow melt) and that fish are already in the stream. Things don't really get cooking until average stream temperatures achieve and maintain above the initiation temperature threshold the week of April 30th. The bulk of returns illustrated in the creel catch doesn't occur until after the threshold is met, and we had roughly 3-1/2 weeks of reported creel before catch-rates tapered off. That and we had some crazy flow which suppressed overall catch throughout the run, it was tough sledding to a degree.

2014 Lower Shore Trap Numbers

    We use the trap numbers to:
  • Compare returns to trap against return to creel
    You need some sort of control data for the Creel and the trap numbers are it. The critical point regarding trap numbers is that the trap operates largely independent of conditions. All discussions regarding trap efficiency during high flow aside, the trap will capture some up bound fish under any condition. Your chances however of catching a fish on the Knife at 2 a.m. in 700cfs are about as good as your chances of surviving a 12,000 foot skydive without a parachute. Not to mention I know some C..O's who would be very interested in your illicit nighttime activities, so I don't recommend either...

    Here too though, we see the same general pattern as we see in the creel, and that helps to validate the creel data. If we saw a wildly different picture, we'd have to go back to the drawing board on our ideas regarding initiation temperatures.

    Things are a bit more cut and dried with the trap data simply because there is a well-defined start and end date for the numbers reported by the Minnesota DNR. There's a little catch to this however because the trap operates for some period of time after the DNR stops publicly reporting numbers via the North Shore Fishing Report. This is why Minnesota Steelheader is so interested in receiving your creel reports no matter what time of the run or the year; it helps to build a much better overall picture.

    With respect to the chart, here again we see returns to trap climbing sharply once the initiation thresholds are met, and peaking post-initiation. This is probably the truest picture of up bound migration patterns in the adult fish. Creel data gives you a picture of fish from anywhere and any time they are in the stream, whether they are at rest or on the move. The trap data is all about fish movement past a given geographical point and illustrates how and when they move, in other words, the run progression.

    Run progression, and if there is such a thing as a "typical" progression, is one of the questions we want to answer with the creel project. The trap numbers have given us a window on this, and now with enough creel data, we can begin to illustrate that (see last chart). 

Historical Lower Shore Creel Data as of 2014

We use historical creel numbers to:
  • Paint the "Big Picture" of returns to creel over the long term
    In the simplest terms, the historical data illustrates the earliest and latest dates fish have (reportedly) run for each region of the shore. While it's not a crystal ball by any stretch of the imagination, it does give you a view of when to expect things to happen. Given enough time and data, what you also see are some well defined markers for peak returns. All we do here is to smoosh all of the annual data we capture for each region of the shore into a unified historical picture.

    As of 2014, we still don't have enough data for this to be illustrated with any clarity. We also have a number of years in the data in which things kicked off very early and very late, which is why you see a bit of a hodge-podge here. There are other lines of evidence you can use (and we do), such as any number of DNR Fisheries Investigational and Technical reports to get at that kind of thing, and we are starting to see correlations to that information in the charts. The whole point though is to present that one stop shop for:
  • When do things typically start
  • When do things typically peak
  • How long does it typically last
  • When do things typically end
    Only time and data will tell, but we are building the foundation and your contributions to the Creel Project are a critical part of the process. 

Historical Lower Shore Run Progression as of 2014

We run progression numbers to:
  • Illustrate and define what the theoretical run progression is with respect to up bound movement in adult fish
    The Historical means show you what to expect in any given year as you look forward. The annual creel and trap validate ideas regarding initiation temps and are the basis for other information. The Daily data shows flow, temps and their affects on fish movement. It also gives you a very good indicator of what is occurring and what is about to happen locally in any given year. The progression is a planning tool for you to use to position yourself  to be a more effective North Shore Steelheader. Without rehashing too much, and since this is a crazy-long post already, you can read the nuts and bolts here:
Run Progression

    Mid-Shore Project data to come shortly, whew!, that was a long sucker... Special thanks to the Minnesota DNR Fisheries Section and Don Schreiner; Good Luck Don!
NMF and Minnesota Steelheader


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