Sunshine at Last!

What a difference a couple days can make...

We finally had a chance to start crunching some numbers thanks to some intrepid anglers and their submissions to the MNST Creel Project. We want to thank those anglers who have submitted so far, as well as to remind everyone else of what you can get out of participating.

First off, we DO NOT post live fishing reports. Your MNST Creel Project submissions are not used in that fashion. All of the preliminary creel data used and posted such as you'll see below, are presented on a regional scale: Lower, Mid and Upper Shore. The early creel numbers are coming in from across each respective region and are presented as a trend, not as actual daily catch numbers. For all of you statistics nerds out there such as myself, the creel numbers are plotted as a 6-point moving average, only the daily flow and temperature numbers are actual. This is done to protect the underlying data, as well as to provide you with insight into relationships between steelhead activity, and current flow and temperatures in a given region. The end result is the ability to visualize the more granular relationships between conditions and steelhead movement, as well as to get a visual representation of where things are at. YOU still have to go find the fish.

As we get closer to initial major migration thresholds (MMT), we'll throttle back on reporting. We still post the occasional update, but the format changes and it is not by any means "live" day to day reporting for any given region.

It's pretty amazing what just a couple days of warmth and sunshine can do. The first good available post-storm imagery came in on the 17th:


Note the snow cover, the ground is pretty white. I got a little excited because it looked like there were some crazy mud-plumes out in the lake. Ordinarily this indicates the streams are really starting to flow, sending out the unique chemical signatures which call the fish home to their natal streams. In this case however, the storm surge and waves simply churned up the lake bottom. The vast majority of what you are seeing off the Duluth entry as well as in Chequamegon Bay here are all suspended bottom sediment brought up out of the shallower areas by storm surge and wave action.

Fast forward 3 days to April 20th and what a difference!:


Note how much snow cover has already been lost in just those three days. Brown-up is critical to the process of opening up the streams for a number of reasons, but it's a fine balance during the pre-run period. Warm to quickly and we get a huge flush of cold water. That helps clear out the streams in a hurry, but they are usually blown-out for a couple of days. We are then left with no snow pack and extremely low flows at exactly the wrong time for extended periods barring precipitation. Ideally we get a nice gentle progression of daily melting. This allows for better flows throughout the pre and early run; and while it takes longer for the streams to fully open, we tend to get a better warming cycle during the day in the streams. Good flows plus upward trends in warming makes for great steelheading. If Goldilocks were a steelheader, the latter scenario would be just right...

As for current conditions, the following Lower Shore graphic tells you quite a bit about what is going on. The creel trend is typical pre-run. Note that our high and average stream temps started increasing back around April 10th, that got our attention. Steelhead activity started to pick up although it's not reflected in the trend. Unfortunately we got punched in the face by the storm which is why you see high and average temps tank. They started climbing again with the return of the sun, but all of the snow that fell started to melt which is why you see a steep climb in the flows, and a corresponding decrease in temps. Again, all of that snowmelt runoff is hitting the streams at just slightly above freezing and lowering temps. 

We'll have a better idea of what's going on in just a couple days. What we're looking for now is for the max daily temps to climb, and for the average daily temps to reach and maintain at or above the dotted red line. If you read the 2017 MS Creel Project Results, we talk about this important threshold and what it means in terms of steelhead movement.

Until then, fingers crossed! It's just the deep breath before the plunge. If you get out fishing, please consider submitting your catch over on the MNST Creel Project Page. We would sure appreciate it and you'll be helping your fellow steelheaders out. We'll be installing a new SGP Sample Collection Box in Grand Marais, more info on that soon.

Lastly, don't forget about the Steelhead Genetics Project. Follow the link to learn more of what it is all about. If you would like to participate or need to renew your collection permit for 2018, please contact:

Fisheries Specialist Nick Peterson
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Lake Superior Area Fisheries
5351 North Shore Drive
Duluth, MN, 55804
Phone: 218-302-3272
Weekly Fishing Report Hotline: 218-302-3293
  

 

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