Anderson: Steelhead season is over on the North Shore

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 1, 2014 - 12:30 AM
hide

Trevor Anderson with a steelhead caught on a yarn fly early last week in a North Shore stream.

Photo: Dennis Anderson,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

 

– As I pulled on my waders here Wednesday morning, watching the rushing river far below that I would fish, I thought again how just how wacky spring’s biological clock has turned the past ­couple of years.

For the next eight hours, I would chase steelhead with my son, Trevor, 21, who was home from Montana for a couple of weeks, and I was hoping at this late date — May 28 —we could still find a fish or two that would take a yarn fly.

In most years, such an effort wouldn’t be worthwhile.

Steelheading is a long-shot game in any event, pursued, oftentimes, in April’s bitterly cold rain and sleet, with North Shore stream banks still covered in snow. Ditto those along Wisconsin’s Lake Superior shoreline not far away.

But fish, like other wildlife, and also people, respond to weather variations in ways large and small; some so minute as to be barely perceptible.

Steelhead that enter North Shore streams and rivers in spring to spawn, for instance, behave differently than many of those that spawn in Wisconsin rivers that empty into Lake Superior. And not just because Wisconsin rivers are farther south, and warm more quickly.

Example:

Wisconsin’s Brule River (Minnesota’s North Shore also has a Brule River, north of Grand Marais) receives its biggest runs of steelhead in fall; fish that overwinter in the river before spawning in spring and slipping back downstream, sometimes tail-first, to Lake Superior.

But the same fish that enter Minnesota’s North Shore streams do so in spring, before returning again days or weeks later to Lake Superior. These fish have little choice: Unlike watersheds drained by the Wisconsin rivers, those emptied by Minnesota ­rivers and streams into Lake Superior are fairly small, and once they’ve deflated the region’s snowmelt, and spring’s heavy rains, their ­levels drop precipitously. And their temperatures rise.

Neither of which is good for steelhead, which prefer cold water, and also favor rivers pockmarked with deep pools capable of providing protective cover from various predators, including eagles and ospreys.

Many anglers consider steelhead (migratory rainbow trout) among the world’s strongest and most beautiful freshwater ­fin-bearing critters, and they start looking for these fish along the North Shore when stream temperatures nudge 40 degrees. It’s then that mature (3- or 4-year-old, or older) steelhead begin to filter into the region’s rock-strewn rivers.

For anglers, the trick is to locate spots where the fish “hold,’’ while running upstream. Springs that unfold fairly slowly, with river temperatures rising only gradually, and water levels remaining fairly high, usually provide the most consistent fishing, and the greatest number of days steelhead can be found in North Shore ­rivers.

Consider now this spring, which arrived late, especially in northern Minnesota, and, when temperatures finally did rise, produced peaks of incredibly raucous river flows north to south, along the North Shore.

Steelhead can fight their way up raging rivers. But anglers can’t fish these waters very well, efficiently or safely.

So this spring, steelheading got a late start. Which is the bad news. The good news is steelhead have been around in some North Shore streams in reasonable numbers much later into May than is ­usually the case.

Proving the point, Trevor, along with Dave Zentner and Mark Kilen of Duluth, on Tuesday hooked eight steelhead. Four were landed, an admirable percentage.

  • related content

  • Hunters say there aren't enough deer

    Sunday June 1, 2014

    DNR hears call for bigger herd, better communication.

  • Feeding the deer

    Sunday June 1, 2014

    feeding deer — and challengesLast winter’s first state emergency winter deer feeding program in 18 years fueled deer — and...

  • Spring arrived late on the North Shore this year but nonetheless was in full bloom on Wednesday. Streams were warming quickly, and dropping, pushing steelhead back into Lake Superior after ­entering the rivers perhaps weeks ago to spawn. The hope was for one more good day of fishing; the result was a clear indication the steelhead season was over.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Washington
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Carolina 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Denver
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Brooklyn 109 FINAL
Boston 107
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Orlando 89
Indiana 109 FINAL
Detroit 119
Milwaukee 107 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Houston 117 FINAL
Memphis 111
San Antonio 90 FINAL
New Orleans 97
Charlotte 75 FINAL
Oklahoma City 98
LA Lakers 98 FINAL
Dallas 102
Minnesota 102 FINAL
Denver 106
Philadelphia 93 FINAL
Portland 114
Phoenix 115 FINAL
Sacramento 106
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
(15) Arizona State 12/27/14 1:10 PM
Duke
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 2:30 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Gophers head coach?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close