Saturday, June 28, 2014

Coasters and Spring Steelhead

    A number of people have asked me, "Why do you guys include coasters in your creel project?" In the beginning, and we are talking pre-Creel Project, super data-junkie days, I was collecting everything and anything I could get my hands on; if it was data, I had to have it. By the way, never ask me about my photoperiod matrix unless you want to see paint get confused and then bored right off the walls....

    At any rate, it was "Just 'Cause". I love coasters and brookies in general, and they were how I was introduced to trout fishing in the first place, so I have a bit of a soft spot.

    Funny thing was that after we captured a number of years-worth of spring steelhead data, something jumped out at us. We didn't have enough of a coaster sample size prior to spring 2014 to even really speculate, but I think we're there now and you may find the results interesting.

    What you are looking at are the last 5 years of coaster data we've collected. Note that the week dates fall between the months of March and June.
    Doesn't look like much, but there are those odd spikes in the catch which got us wondering. The coasters aren't spawning at that time of year, so just what is it that they are doing? We also compared the long-term creel rainbow averages (steelhead+kamloops) against coaster creel and what you get is this:
    Our current SWAG - That's Scientific Wild-Ass Guess for you non-technical folks - is that the coasters are opportunistically feeding on free-floating steelhead eggs during the runs. We see the same sort of behavior during the pink runs in the fall, well before the coasters are spawning.

     Couple oddities about the chart:
Two possibilities come to mind regarding that first peak in late March...
1. It's simply a result of a couple very early runs we experienced during the creel project.
2. The coasters are following that first flush of kamloops which tend to enter the streams earlier than the steelhead.

    The other item is that the third peak doesn't quite fit the mid-shore model with respect to mid-shore steelhead peaks. Until 2014, it was a dead-on match however, we had a lot of "late" steelhead coming on the lower shore in 2014 which skewed the numbers to a degree, but only by a couple of days so it's still in the ballpark.

    MS will continue to watch this with interest because it's simply another way to illustrate what is happening (indirectly) with the steelhead during the course of a run. It's also good data in its own right; I mean c'mon, who doesn't love this beautiful native char???


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Updated Trap Data

    We finally found a little time to do some analysis, but there's much more to be done and much more to come, so bear with us...

    Short of getting some late additions to the Creel Project, the numbers are pretty much in and there are some very interesting items to note. 2014 is shaping up to be one of the more unusual runs I can remember. Everyone is scratching their heads over the weather, the late ice, the sustained high flows, and the apparent mystery of the disappearing year classes of adults, both Steelhead and Kamloops all across the Big Lake; it is just plain strange.

    I guess I don't want to do too much speculation on the mystery of the missing year-classes because I'm thinking that we just won't know if they are truly missing until we see some reports on trap efficiency. With the sustained high flows, it's entirely possible that quite a few fish simply bypassed the traps, so we'll just have to wait and see what can be gleaned from the capture of down-bound adults. I'm also waiting to see what the 2014 Creel Project numbers have to say when compared to previous year's numbers, hopefully we'll have that for you soon. There's a mountain of data to sift through and a mole-hill's quantity of time to do it in for now. Uninterrupted free time seems to be as elusive as steelhead in August on the Shore.

    What we do have for you right now are the preliminary trap numbers. I say preliminary only because the DNR has stopped reporting on the Spring Creel page and are now focusing on the Summer Creel reporting. Numbers always get adjusted, it is what it is. Even MS had to go back through it all as there were quite a few adjustments to be made to flow on our Lower Shore index stream.

    That being said, here's what we are finding so interesting: When you look at the last three weeks of reported trap numbers, you don't see the typical tapering off of the numbers. There were respectable numbers of fish returning to trap every time there was a hiccup in flows. It's not as apparent in the chart here simply because, as has been previously discussed, the daily's are where you see those granular interactions between temperature, flow and fish. A weekly such as depicted below gives you that overall picture, but trust us, it was unusual.

    So what does it mean? Your guess is as good as ours at this point, but I for one would like to do a little exploring on certain North Shore tribs as it would not surprise me to still find some fish, even at this point in the game. Catchable numbers??? Unknown, but a day on the river beats a day thinking about it.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Preliminary Trap Results

    Just some preliminary trap information. One of the things I discovered early on in my quest to better understand North Shore fishing was that simply plotting trends just wasn't well, understandable....

    It's not that it doesn't provide good information, in fact trends are where you see those granular details and interactions between temperature, flow and fish movement. However it's not quite as intuitive as the weekly analysis format I finally put together; so here's the combined Knife/French trap numbers in that format:

    Overall there are a couple things to note: Once again you can see that things really don't get rolling until after the upstream temperature intitiation thresholds are met. Flow averages this spring were crazy-high throughout the run, and most definately had an effect on fish movement throughout. But again, the weekly format filters out the granular so that you can see the big picture better.
    And speaking of the big picture - I don't get as concerned with the actual totals of fish numbers with respect to the charts from year to year. The whole point is to better understand those temperature, flow and fish interactions as a whole as opposed to the overall numbers returning to creel and trap; but we have had a very odd year. 
    Rather than do a bunch of speculation here, a recent Duluth News Tribune artical covers the topic pretty well: Rainbow run riddle: Where are the trout?
Last item: there are still fish available and fishing to be had, so don't hang it up yet!
More to come-