Thursday, March 31, 2016

2016 Creel Update with Numbers

Another quick numbers update as promised, just so you have an idea of where things may be at-

Total Lower Shore creel numbers from March 10th through March 31 - Day 22:
Total Rainbows Reported: 85
Total Brook Trout/Coasters Reported: 2

Steelhead Reported: 48
Kamloops Reported: 37

Average Rainbows Reported per day: 3.86
Currently not tracking numbers of Anglers reporting or CPUE, Sorry...

Mid Shore is beginning to wake up, Upper Shore still fairly sleepy. Keep watching those stream temps!
Minnesota Steelheader

March 30th Updates

Quick update for now. Brownup is accelerating, you can see the "wrap-effect" on snowline as it spins up and around the western arm of Superior. Some of this is due to the effect Superior water temps have on local conditions. There is also one hell of a sediment plume spinning out into the Lake from mostly the Nemadji.

What does it mean? Streams will begin warming far more rapidly now with browner ground and less cold snowmelt hitting the streams provided we get some sun...

We have been receiving steady creel reports so thank YOU to all who have submitted. We only have temp numbers through the 28th, but so far, trending upwards.

We did have to make one adjustment. We decided to use a different index stream for Lower Shore temps. This stream presents a much more realistic picture of stream conditions across the Lower Shore, and should be a better indicator of where things are at.

As you can see, people are catching fish. Don't get too excited though, numbers appear high, but we are really looking at a trend in this graphic. We'll try and post some actual numbers shortly, suffice to say for now the cold conditions are pretty much driving the bus with respect to numbers; lets hope for some sun or a good warm rain.

For other information on conditions and numbers, please visit this great resource:  2016 North Shore Fishing Report

Saturday, March 26, 2016

2016 Creel Reports and Status

As we said recently, we are watching conditions very closely and thanks to some early Creel Report submissions, we actually have some data analyze and post. A big MS Thank You to those who have already begun to submit reports, You folks rock!

First to consider and understand is that we again only have temp data from a couple small streams along the Lower Shore beat. While this is still invaluable, you have to understand that these streams warm far more quickly, and typically hit the initiation threshold 5-8 days before larger streams such as the Knife. Given the fact of early warming on small tribs, even these streams are not there yet:

This particular trib is probably the smallest of our data index streams, but even this one hasn't quite cracked 40 yet.

Our next index stream is a little larger, fairly comparable to the Sucker in size. You can see the effect water volume and differences in overhead cover make in the rate of warming; overall this stream is 1-3 days behind the one above.
 In both you can see the influence of the daily solar cycle on warming. You can also see how the  storm we got on March 15th and 16th affected stream temps and flows. Flows go way up, but all that cold water suppresses warming. Once it flushes from the system and we get some sun again, the classic heartbeat signature from the sun re-develops. Understanding these influences, particularly cold rain or snow once the run kicks off is important to steelheaders, you have to adjust your tactics to the conditions, cold rain or snow change how the fish behave, how much they move, where they hold etc. early in the run.

Below we see the effects once again of the storm on the 15th and 16th.  The difference here is we are not looking at stream temps, we are looking at stream discharge, flow if you like.

Even though we received a significant amount of precipitation, you can see how quickly it leaves the system. Streams on the North Shore, particularly on the Lower and Mid Shore are spate streams, that is they are heavily dependent on precipitation. They also rocket up and down quickly, so keeping an eye on conditions and adapting helps you succeed as a steelheader.

 What you also see illustrated very well here is that as flow decreases, there's that classic early-season heartbeat signature. While the underlying cause is the same, that being the daily solar cycle, just remember that because we are looking at flow, the sun is melting snow and the melt-water hitting the stream is driving the heartbeat, not increases in water temperature.

The critical point here is that while the sun plays a part in warming the stream and jump-starting the run, it is also creating a problem. As the stream begins maximum warming in the afternoons while there is still snow-pack on the ground, all that snow-melt is dumping very cold water back into the stream which actually slows warming down. Keep this in mind as you fish during the early part of the run and you'll know what part of the day is the optimal time to try and catch fish.

Putting it All Together

As we said, we are already receiving 2016 creel data, so we hope you see and understand how useful it is. Your submissions help everyone become better, more successful steelheaders.

All of the same data above is here presented in a unified chart: Flow, Temps and Creel Trend. Past MS Creel Data analysis tells us that roughly 10% of adult steelhead caught are reported prior to the initiation temperature being reached (the red line). These early fish are almost exclusively caught between average daily stream temperatures of 34° F to 38° F.

Prior to the 12th of March, there was just too much ice in the tribs to get reliable data.The storm around the 15th dumped a bunch of cold water into the tribs causing stream temps to drop by about 2° F. Once stream temps hit 34 again on the 19th of March, we started seeing fish being caught in the streams. This trend has increased as average daily temps increased from 34° F to around 36° F.

This trend will continue upwards as long as the streams continue to warm, culminating in a magical 7-21 day period of steelheading once the initiation thresholds are met. WHEN we hit that magic initiation threshold is the big question at this point. It all depends on snowpack, sun and mother nature at this point. This coming week is forecasted to be warm, but the brakes might just be stamped on if we get the predicted Polar Vortex next weekend.

The best part is we are just getting started... This process will be repeated on both the Mid and Upper Shore, and depending on the start dates for those two regions, you may just be steelheading into June.

Minnesota Steelheader

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Current State of the Steelhead Union

Sediment Plume from the Nemadji
Greetings from the MS nerve center where the alert level just ratcheted up a notch.

The first item of significant note is that we are seeing the first large-scale sediment plumes on the satellite imagery. The brown "S" shaped plume at left is largely from the Nemadji. These plumes are significant because they indicate the thawing of the tribs and increases in flow have begun. This process carries sediment and the stream's unique chemical signature out into the lake which the fish use to navigate back to their home streams.

And while it is going fast, we still have some snow-pack on the ground. A measured snow pack melt is desirable as opposed to a rapid, massive melt which plays havoc with stream chemistry not to mention flows, and can have negative impacts on the fish, particularly young steelhead..

We are once again somewhat blind as to live Lower Shore conditions due to limited gauge data, but the past creel project data is beginning to pay dividends, and based on that here's where we think sit:

Currently we are in the deep breath before the plunge. The data below is from one of the smaller Lower Shore tribs. Based on prior creel data, we know that we have a ways to go before we hit the initiation threshold and the first major upbound migrations of steelhead and kamloops. This threshold is the temperature range which is closely correlated with significant upbound migrations. As you can see from the chart below (stream temps in red), the daily warming cycle isn't quite hitting the mid-30's. We need to be warming close to, or into the lower 40's to hit the magic number.

Don't get discouraged however, there are more and more fish staging off the river mouths due to those increased flows, warming water and sediment plumes.One of the other things we now know from the creel data you've all been so kindly submitting, is that even though we have not reached the initiation threshold, roughly 10% of adult fish caught during any given run return during the period we are in right now. You'll have to work a little harder, and change your tactics to match conditions, but there are fish to be had if you can find open water.

Stay tuned to the blog, we are watching conditions on a daily basis now; we'll keep you posted.
Lower Shore Small Trib Temp, Flow and Precip Data

Monday, March 21, 2016

2016 Creel Project is Open!

Whether you are new to Minnesota Steelheader, or simply missed it last year, we need your help!

The Minnesota Steelheader Creel Project is a non-scientific poll of catch information similar to what is provided in the Official MNDNR creel reports.

Your part is very simple - When you fish in 2016, simply record the following information:

Species and Number Caught: Kamloops, Steelhead or Brook Trout

The Region Where You Caught the Fish: Lower, Mid or Upper Shore. It is critical that you get the location correct. MS is not interested in the specific streams, simply the region, so please use this format:
Lower Shore Region - All Tributaries from Mission Creek to Knife River
Mid Shore Region - All Tributaries from Stewart River to Baptism River

Upper Shore Region - All Tributaries from Little Marais River to Pigeon River including those on the Reservation.
The Date the Fish Were Caught: Well, the date....

That's it! Species, Region and Date, how simple is that? There is one other important ground rule.

Please make sure that you only report steelhead, kamloops and brook trout numbers once. If you fished with a group, put your heads together and pick one person to report the TOTAL numbers, OR, only report fish you personally caught. This helps prevent duplication in catch data.

Example: If you and your fishing partner caught a total of two steelhead on April 24th, please do not both report back that you caught two steelhead, otherwise it will look like four steelhead were caught that day and it will skew the numbers.

Click Here to
enter your data OR, send your information directly to:

The data collected in our Creel Project ultimately provides us all with an increasingly better picture of steelhead fishing on the North Shore. MS publishes the information for you to think about and use whether you are brand new to the sport, or a veteran of 40 seasons. It's good stuff.

Important Item: We could really use more data on the Upper Shore, particularly late-season; so if you head up that way and have some success, please keep us in mind. We'll also take data from any time during the year, you'll be helping everyone out when you send it in.

Last but not least, stay tuned for exciting information on the 2016 Steelhead Genetics Project!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Getting fishy out there.

Spring is just around the corner!

Though the weather is warming, our North Shore rivers have a long way to go until they will run freely without an ice covered canopy.  In the meantime, fish are cruising the ice free shorelines of Minnesota's Lake Superior waters. There are miles and miles of good angling shoreline on our North Shore, don't be fooled that the only place to catch fish is where a crowd may be. 

Notice the "nub" where the adipose fin was on the fish in this photo.  This is a healed fin clip from when this buck was just a little guy.  Remember this adipose must be absent (healed over) in order to keep your Rainbow.  Yep, this is a Kamloops strain Rainbow Trout.  These fish are raised and stocked for all you trout stamp carting anglers to catch and keep for the table. 

Don't forget to check us out on Facebook.  We actively post current happenings, events, and volunteer opportunities.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

2016 On the Move

March 6th 2016 Satellite Imagery
Greetings from the ops center at Minnesota Steelheader! We've been in a bit of a holding pattern, keeping tabs on conditions as we like to do at this time of year, and things appear to be on the move.

2016 already looks to be a bit of an anomaly. Weather conditions have been all over the board, but we do look like we are in for an early warming trend. How this will affect steelhead overall is just too difficult to say at this moment, but we can tell you that monitoring of conditions is about to kick into high gear.

Currently there are a number of items of note:

  • With the warmer temps, the snowline is rapidly moving north. We are not seeing too much in the way of brown-up in the St. Louis valley, or along the eastern edge of the shore near the Lake, but it cannot be too far away
  • Not much in the way of daily warming cycle as indicated by classic "heartbeat" signatures in North Shore tributary discharge and stage, but we are now watching closely for the first signs. We don't anticipate seeing ice-movement or mud plumes at the outflows just yet, but we are watching now
  • Although we don't typically post regarding non-North Shore activity, one of the early signs comes from the WI Brule. If you aren't already aware, the Brule gauge went live on February 18th which is incredibly early. This means ice-out has reached the USGS Station near the DNR HQ.  
  • Kamloops activity is picking up and coho, which are following the smelt and foraging on them as they stage for spawning, are also increasing in the shore catch
We are gearing up for a number of exciting projects which we will tell you about shortly. As conditions begin to change, we will start posting regularly in the blog, so stay tuned.

As always, the Creel Project will be open soon, so if you get a chance, we would appreciate any and all reports. Best of luck and good fishing in 2016!
Minnesota Steelheader