While our North Shore Rivers aren't running green like they do in Chicago this time of year, we are seeing definite signs of life.
Here where I live, the Blue Jay, Chickadee and Cardinal males have all been trying out their very best pick-up lines on the ladies every morning for the better part of a week; and the pussy willow and maple buds are all swelling despite some pretty chilly temps. If you follow these natural cycles, they have a lot to tell you about what is going on in the world around you.
So despite being 110.4 miles from my nearest steelhead stream (give or take a 10th of a mile), that Cardinal was telling me I should probably take a closer look. Taking a peek at MODIS satellite imagery shows quite a change. The snow line has retreated considerably, now running in a line from the south shore westward, splitting the State between Mille Lacs and Leech/Winnie. Despite recent lake-effect snow, we're seeing the first good brown-up from Duluth into parts of the mid North Shore.
Compare that to the images from just over 10 days ago, the change is quite dramatic.
All of that brown-up is going to help to jump-start the tribs. While consistent temperature data has been hard to come by, our smaller lower shore index stations are beginning to show definite signs of life. Typically from a steelheading perspective, those tribs are usually getting into pre-run steelheading condition anywhere from 7-14 days ahead of larger tribs like the Knife simply because they are smaller and warm that much more quickly, consequently they become good forecasters of what is just over the horizon.
What really peaks our interest today is that even some of the larger tribs are beginning to shake off their winter slumber. The stream gage below is a perfect example: Here we see daily sun cycle/warming driving snow-melt and flow. That classic heartbeat-like signature is really beginning to develop; and the sharper that daily spike as depicted on the 14th, 15th and 16th, the better we like it and the more closely we begin to watch stream temperatures. We know from the Creel Project data that approximately 10% of our total annual returns to creel occur during what we would call a pre-initiation or pre-run run phase. I don't think we are there yet based on temps, but we are getting very close. Given some decent sun, the next 10-14 days and some data analysis should tell us a lot.
Stay tuned, things are heating up!