Thursday, May 22, 2014

Upper Shore Creel Updates

    Couple quick notes: Still ok numbers of fish being caught on the Lower Shore. Mid Shore numbers are very good still; all information based on combined DNR/Minnesota Steelheader creel. Many thanks and keep 'em coming, we are getting great data this year.

Last daily of the year for Upper Shore. Temps didn't bounce around as much as I thought they might, but flows are another story. Don't let the low posted creel trend numbers fool you, but for the crazy flows, fishing would be getting very good. Look for decent numbers for at least the next ten days, and fishing to continue right into June.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fishing Report 5-20-14

MN Steelheader - fishing report
Over the weekend along the Lower Shore, rivers were holding stable flows with morning water
temperatures in the mid-40s and afternoon water temperatures in the low 50s. Angling pressure was
moderate and anglers reported slow to fair fishing. Interviewed anglers caught 20 Kamloops, 16
steelhead, 1 coho salmon and 10 suckers.

Along the Middle Shore conditions were good, as river levels continued to slowly fall and were flowing at normal to slightly high levels. Water temperatures were 40-43 degrees in the mornings and 49-52 degrees in the afternoons. Fishing pressure was fairly light and interviewed anglers also reported rather slow fishing, landing 10 steelhead and 1 sucker.

Along the Upper Shore, water conditions continued to improve. The larger rivers were still running high, but the moderate to smaller rivers were in excellent condition for angling. Morning water temperatures were
40-43 degrees and rose to 46-49 degrees in the afternoons. Angling pressure was light, and interviewed
anglers reported slow fishing, landing 5 steelhead and 5 brook trout.

Trap totals through 5/19 are 224 steelhead and 15 Kamloops at the Knife River, and 195 Kamloops and 15 steelhead at the French River.

Our angling advice is not to let the low DNR creel reporting fool you into thinking there are no fish around. With few anglers on the water, the sampling of anglers is light.

Please note: the above creel information is that of the MN DNR and not the results of the Minnesota Steelheader creel project (MSCP).  We do not post weekly tally numbers from our MSCP.  The data all you volunteers provide us with is added to our thingamabob computer program and will be spit out into a cumulative learning and teaching tool - a pretty darn good one at that!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Help our DNR Creel census clerks

Kamloop or Steelhead?

Did you know three DNR creel census clerks conduct angler interviews from April through late-May along the North Shore?  Here is a list of rivers along Lake Superiors North Shore they survey:

Lower Shore: Lester, McQuade Harbor/Talmadge River, French, Sucker, and Knife
Middle Shore: Stewart, Silver, Gooseberry, Split Rock, Beaver, and Baptism
Upper Shore: Cross, Temperance, Poplar, Cascade, Devil Track, Kadunce, and Brule

If one of these clerks approaches you for an interview, don't panic, he is just out gather fish catching information.  Please be courteous to these clerks and take a moment out of your day to assist, even if you have not caught any fish - yet. Your cooperation is very helpful and is greatly appreciated.

The above photo is a north shore catch.  Sometimes initial appearances might be confusing, and a bit of a challenge for some to identify the difference between a kamloop's rainbow trout and a steelhead.  There is a dead give away in this photo that id's this hen.  Can you see it - Kamloop or Steelhead?


Fishing Report 5-16-14

Along the Lower Shore, water levels dropped as the week progressed and conditions for angling have
improved. Water temperatures were low 40s early in the mornings and generally 46-48 degrees in the
afternoons. Fishing pressure remained low this week but anglers reported improved fishing compared
to recent weeks. The DNR Creel staff Interviewed anglers who caught 9 steelhead and 5 Kamloops.

Along the middle shore, water conditions also improved considerably compared to early in the week. Water levels have receded to very manageable levels, and water temperatures reached 46-48 degrees in the afternoons. Angling pressure was very light and interviewed anglers reported slow fishing despite good conditions, and caught 1 steelhead and 1 northern pike.

Along the Upper Shore, water levels were very high early in the week and have come down some, but not to the extent that they have along the rest of the shore. Water temperatures were 41-44 degrees. Angling pressure was extremely light and no fish were reported. Trap totals through 5/15 are 204 steelhead and 14 Kamloops at the Knife River, and 136 Kamloops and 9 steelhead at the French River. R.

A good place to be this weekend for steelhead success might not be on your couch, but rather one of 60ish north shore streams or rivers.

Tight Lines!

Some information and the creel numbers have been provided by the MN DNR

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mid and Upper Shore Creel Trend Updates

Latest creel project trends...

Mid Shore - Last one for this year, we're there but it's going to be tough until the water starts coming down again. Pretty much the only thing holding back catch rates are the high flows, look for catch to improve as flows begin to drop again. As an aside and in reference to the recent high flow concept post, no idea what the limiting rate is on this particular stream, but we're probably at or above it.

Upper Shore - We're mostly there... I know, I charted that we are there, but there's so much snowmelt being flushed into the system right now that I think temps are going to teeter back and forth for a couple days to maybe a week yet. Usually when that happens we get steelhead moving in fits and spurts as temps bounce up and down. I'll probably continue to post until things stabilize.


2014 Combined Trap Trend

Just some quickie analysis of the Trap trends for 2014...

    No surprizes here with respect to inititation temps and trap numbers, but I want to throw a new concept at you.

    If you read the technical literature closely, you'll find a concept which helps you understand when to change tactics and where to fish under certain conditions. Stream temperatures give you a window on when adult steelhead begin that first big upstream migration, but what happens once those conditions are met and maintained? Well, this is where flow takes over.

    Once steelhead begin entering the rivers, they have one goal in mind - reproduction- and they are on a mission. Few things influence their drive to move upstream like flow. Steelhead are biologically programmed if you will to move on high flows. Over time, higher flows have allowed steelhead to reach those areas of the stream which are most conducive to spawning and rearing, and those areas are typically located in the uppermost portions of a given watershed. They typically have the right combination of spawning gravel, cover, habitat, forage and oxygen levels which promote successful spawning, and allow young fish to survive to the time at which they return to the lake. But those upper reaches are also typically shallow which is where running on higher flows pays off, the adults can reach these areas when they otherwise would not on lower flow.  

    Those steelhead strong enough to make it successfully pass on their genetic makup, so it becomes a sort of positive feedback loop. But again flow is key. Things are a little different on the North Shore due to the short run nature of the streams, so we are just talking about the overall concept of that pre-programming in steelhead generally.

    New Concept: Can the flow get too high, and if so, what happens when it does?

    On the Knife, thanks to the folks at DNR Fisheries, we know that the flow value which limits the ability of steelhead to continue their push upstream is right in that 500-600 CFS range. We're seeing that right now in the trap and creel numbers:

    The trend has essentially flat-lined as the flows increased significantly after the recent heavy rain. Remember, the flow values on the chart are divided by 10, so you have to multiply by that to get the actual value.
    So how does this affect you as a steelheader? Well, you have to change tactics because the fish are simply hunkering down and riding out the high flows. Looking for areas which are sheltered somewhat from the chocolate maelstrom pay off big time in these conditions, so too does going big and bright, or big and dark. If you can go big, bright/dark and smelly, so much the better....
    One of my favorite tactics in these conditions is to find big back-eddys. It looks absolutely stupid, but it works. Basically you cast on the inner edge of the downstream eddy seam, but what you are really trying to do is to get your presentation caught up in the eddy so that it comes back to you. It's like fishing in a washing machine because your presentation just keeps going around and around; but where you usually get bit is during the "upstream" cycle as it were. That's because the fish are usually laying in the gentler eddy out of the storm, but because the water is cycling upstream and around, the fish are actually facing backwards, usually right at your feet (so don't just go blundering right into the water).
    You can do this with flies or yarn, but it's tough because it's difficult to control what's going on at the terminal end. Using a float with a jig and your favorite big smelly presentation suspended just off the bottom is perfect. Just let the washing machine do the work...

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

2014 Trap Reports - FINAL

DATE: 06/06/2014Knife River Flow: 148CFSIndex River Temp: 59.19°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured252
Total Captured33222
DATE: 06/06/2014Knife River Flow: 148CFSIndex River Temp: 59.19°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured538
Total Captured21331
DATE: 06/03/2014Knife River Flow: 1190CFSIndex River Temp: 59.44°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured260
Total Captured30720
DATE: 06/03/2014Knife River Flow: 1190CFSIndex River Temp: 59.44°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured047
Total Captured16293
DATE: 05/30/2014Knife River Flow: 51CFSIndex River Temp: 57.69°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured110
Total Captured28120
DATE: 05/30/2014Knife River Flow: 51CFSIndex River Temp: 57.69°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured19
Total Captured16246
DATE: 05/28/2014Knife River Flow: 64CFSIndex River Temp: 56.49°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured222
Total Captured27020
DATE: 05/28/2014Knife River Flow: 64CFSIndex River Temp: 56.49°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured012
Total Captured15237
DATE: 05/23/2014Knife River Flow: 156CFSIndex River Temp: 54.5°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured243
Total Captured24818
DATE: 05/23/2014Knife River Flow: 156CFSIndex River Temp: 54.5°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured030
Total Captured15225
DATE: 05/19/2014Knife River Flow: 137CFSIndex River Temp: 49.64°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured201
Total Captured22415
DATE: 05/19/2014Knife River Flow: 137CFSIndex River Temp:  49.64°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured659
Total Captured15195
DATE: 05/16/2014Knife River Flow: 270CFSIndex River Temp: 46.4°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured111
Total Captured20414
DATE: 05/16/2014Knife River Flow: 270CFSIndex River Temp: 46.4°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured213
Total Captured9136
DATE: 05/12/2014Knife River Flow: 730CFSIndex River Temp: 46.76°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured615
Total Captured19313
DATE: 05/12/2014Knife River Flow: 730CFSIndex River Temp: 46.76°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured114
Total Captured7123
DATE: 05/09/2014Knife River Flow: 1370CFSIndex River Temp: 42.08°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured505
Total Captured1328
DATE: 05/09/2014Knife River Flow: 1370CFSIndex River Temp: 42.08°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured573
Total Captured6109
DATE: 05/05/2014Knife River Flow: 753CFSIndex River Temp: 42.3°F
Knife RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured823
Total Captured823
DATE: 05/05/2014Knife River Flow: 753CFSIndex River Temp: 42.3°F
French RiverSteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured136
Total Captured136
DATE: 05/02/2014Knife River Flow: 1020CFSIndex River Temp: 38.1°F
Traps Open SteelheadKamloopsUnclipped Clipped
Number Captured00
Total Captured00

Creel Trend Update

    The creel data which came in from the last couple days has confirmed what we were seeing in the temperature data, that the Lower North Shore had, for the most part, reached the upstream steelhead migration initiation threshold and was about to pop. They did and it has...

    The interesting thing is that we thought there might be some small delay due to the fact that our index stream for temperatures this year is quite a bit smaller and warms more quickly when compared to most of the other Lower Shore Tribs. To be honest, my bet was on Thursday - Friday given our index stream hit roughly last Saturday and flows were so high yet. BUT, lots of sun can work wonders this time of year so it looks like the other Lower Shore Tribs are right there already. Not only does the creel trend confirm this, but the Knife and French Trap reports do as well.

    So what does this mean for you? Well, our Creel Project data tells us that going forward from the initiation threshold, we are now in a magic 14-day window (give or take a few days based on how quickly stream temps hit the low 50's), of some of the best steelheading of the season on the Lower Shore. The Creel Project isn't simply about the data, it allows Minnesota Steelheader to give YOU the best information and tools possible to plan your steelhead outings all across the Shore. BUT, we can't do this without your support, so PLEASE keep the creel reports coming in; they help us all to become more knowledgeable steelheaders.
    This will be the last live update for the Lower Shore with respect to creel trends, we know we are there and now it's up to you. We will however continue to post Trap numbers along with fishing reports as we receive them.
    Thanks again to the stellar crew (Don Schreiner et. al.) at the Minnesota DNR Fisheries Office, without their technical information and reports, none of this would be possible.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

05.04.2014 Update

Lots of things beginning to happen on the North Shore!

    The DNR's Mid and Upper Shore Creel surveys began this weekend and the French and Knife River traps are open, so look for reports to begin rolling in. For those of you who have submitted MS Creel Reports, we thank YOU! Keep 'em coming.

    As for now, I suppose we should start with the Lower Shore and work our way northward:
The Lower Shore is right on the brink. Keep in mind that our index stream for temperature is smaller than most of the tribs, consequently it warms faster and can be several days ahead of the others; but if this clear weather, warmth and most importantly -sunshine- holds, we think steelheading should be getting hot this week. Look for creel counts to increase significantly as soon as flows drop a bit, it's still crazy high as of 0900 on May 4th, 2014, but the last of the snow looks to be finally flushing out the system.

    Mid Shore is getting very close. Pretty typical for the Mid Shore to hit just about the same time or slightly later than the Lower Shore, look for fishing to really pick up by the end of the week or over the weekend; flows are all over the place but could stand to drop just a tad.

    Upper Shore has a little ways to go, but it really depends on the weather at this point. Keep your fingers crossed for some sun; flows need to drop some here as well, not likely until we get rid of the remaining snowpack.


Thursday, May 01, 2014

Pre-Run Temperature Monitoring

    A number of people have asked me, "Why all the fuss about stream temperatures early in the run?" Well, putting all of the technical literature aside regarding initial upstream migration temp thresholds, the following historical raw return numbers vs. stream temperatures illustrate part of the the point pretty well. What you are looking at in other words are the numbers of steelhead which returned to trap at a particular temperature range: ~5-8 degree spread. And I apologize, I don't recall specifically how many years of return data are represented here, but it's over 3000 fish sampled, so I would call that a pretty good data-set. For those of you who have been following along for a while now, "Magic 40" and all that...