Fall Fishing is Coming

If you haven't been paying attention, or maybe your brain is about melted from all this heat & humidity like mine is, but fall fishing is just around the corner. Browns have been coming in on select tribs & pinks have been staging in numbers off of North Shore tributaries.

What's interesting is that in a typical year, the first reports of pinks show up in the DNR summer lake creel just about a month to the day before they show up in the streams. Usually this takes place in the Grand Marais/Hovland area & around the middle of August. This year, reports of near-shore pinks started showing up around the 20th of July which is really early. That & very good numbers are being caught as far south as Two Harbors.

You'll probably get tired of hearing me say it, but fall pink fishing is a great way to get out and learn streams for spring steelheading. The fish utilize similar areas, & you're better able to spot things about individual streams you wouldn't ordinarily be able to see during high, dirty spring conditions. This can pay off big time when you are actually targeting steelhead. Plus fall is a beautiful time to be out fishing.

One item that's not so rosy is the drought status in the Arrowhead.

One of the chronic problems young steelhead face on the North Shore are low flows & near lethal to lethal summertime temperatures. It's a wonder that steelhead are able to survive at all considering the sheer number of limiting factors steelhead deal with, but they do. It's nice when flows come up at the right time in the fall, but I'd certainly trade some of that for more stable summertime stream levels; primarily for the sake of young-of-year, naturally produced fish.

At any rate, start watching flows come the last week in August, it just might be an early start to the fall runs.


Minnesota said…
I was up on the middle shore weds and thurs and noticed fish rising. The lake was dead and there was quite a caddis hatch. I waded out with a elk hair caddis and caught a number of jacks, smolts and what I thought may be small coho salmon up to 17 inches--perhaps they were pink salmon.
My guess is the salmon were probably Coho. If you have any photos send them in via the website and we will gladly help ID for you.
Minnesota said…
I didn't snap any photos--didn't have the camera on me. I usually do. Ok, from memory, I'm inclined to say they were cohos. Looking at photos of fresh pinks on the net and of fish I caught in Alaska the fish I caught did not have the large, irregular spotting that pinks have. Though the give away here, is that the larger fish had spotting--though fine--on the tail. I may have caught both. Who knows? The only no brainer were the clipped and unclipped rainbows. Either way it was fun to get cruising fish on the dry on the big lake. I've never had the opportunity before.
NMF said…
My guess is they were pinks for some reasons listed below, but I won't rule out coho either. For whatever reason, pinks have been staging in large numbers just offshore but very early this year; particularly in the Grand Marais to Hovland stretch, but trollers are getting them in numbers as far south as Two Harbors. Most of the catches have been coming close to shore and in the top 50' of the water column. This location & depth is not common for summer coho. I know that near-shore surface temps dropped recently, but this happened after your trip. It still might account for bringing some coho up and closer to shore.

It is more likely they were coho simply based on the fact that it's almost unheard of for shore-casters to get pinks in summer. There just isn't precedent for it prior to the time they are running in the streams (Late August through September). I have gotten them in the lake near outflows/upwellings at spawning time. This is common in their native habitat also where they can and do spawn in these near-shore areas.

Not much is known about summer diet here (MN or the Great Lakes generally), but in their native habitat pinks are voracious bug-eaters for months just after smolting & returning to the ocean. After that they adopt a krill, shrimp & small fish diet. I would guess they wouldn't be averse to surface insects as they stage, but again, not much is known about these fish and what they do during the summer here.

Pinks that size would be easy to mistake for coho. Coho average just a bit larger, but not much: ~20" while pinks are 13-17" average in MN waters. In their pre-spawn state, when they are still silvery for example, they do look similar. Coho have 13-15 anal fin rays & pinks have 13-17. Coho have black mouths with white gums however & pinks are just the opposite with white mouths and black gums like chinook. The tail spotting would be another pre-spawn clue. Coho generally only have spotting in the upper half of the tail although this is not always true. Sometimes they have non at all, & more rarely do they exhibit tail-spotting throughout, but the spots are round. Pinks have spotting throughout the tail, but the gimme is that much of it is irregular to very oblong in shape. Pinks also have a sharper snout that almost looks upturned compared to the other pacific species; particularly in males prior to kyping.

If you have a picture, send it to us because I'm darn curious myself.

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