Creel Project - The Beginning

    To better understand why Minnesota Steelheader went off the deep end so to speak with regards to looking closely at temperature and its influence on the initial upstream migration of steelhead and kamloops, we have to go back to the beginning.

    The true genesis was born out of sheer frustration, and a manic quest for information on fishing the North Shore. At the time, the frustration arose from the conventional wisdom that flow was the be-all, end-all factor in steelhead and kamloops movement: Flow goes up, fish start moving; only significant anecdotal evidence suggested otherwise.

    Over the course of many years of North Shore steelheading, conventional flow-wisdom proved itself over and again, but there were also far too many outings where, at the end of the day, you wanted to snap your rod in half, chuck it far out into Lake Superior and take up anything but steelheading; knitting for example...

    The final straw was a trip in which I took a number of North Shore neophytes on what became a grim, three-day, wholly unsuccessful quest. We drove endlessly, froze our hands and feet, hiked and waded countless miles, and made equally dangerous descents and ascents of some of the most notorious North Shore canyons. Not once did we ever touch a fish. Fortunately the group was comprised of hard-core steelheaders with plenty of experience outside of Minnesota because to this day, they still refer to that trip as, "The Devil's Track Death-March".

    All of us agreed that conditions were ideal: Flow was up, the water was somewhat off-colored and it was spring; what else could a steelheader ask for? Even a bona fide steelheading shaman rolling his spawn-bag amulet between rod-calloused fingers and throwing the bones would have said the time to fish was now.

    I spent the remainder of the following summer poring over Minnesota DNR technical research, but it was a single line in one paper, and the chance organization of old fishing logs, which pointed us in what we believe now was the right direction.

    As it turned out, a pattern appeared where despite ideal flow, catch rates were consistently low or non-existent. There were also numerous entries where despite what you might describe as anemic, heck pathetic flows really, catch rates were all a steelheader could wish for. When you lined things up, these events all occurred during the initial or early portions of the run. They also seemed to align around certain temperature readings recorded in the logs, and that is where the proverbial light-bulb went on.

    At that point I took a deep dive into the DNR's trap data, and here is what I found:


    Given a represented sample size of nearly 22,000 fish returning to trap, the temperature evidence seemed pretty clear. Four years on now in the Creel Project with roughly another seven years of other data has yielded even further evidence regarding both temperature and flow factors; all of which we hope will make you a more successful North Shore steelheader. With your continued support and reports, we'll keep posting the information with the goal of giving back, and making us all more knowledgeable, effective and conservation-minded steelhead anglers.

NMF and Minnesota Steelheader         


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