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NORTH SHORE TRIP

I went up to the North Shore last Friday to try for steelhead and Loopers [Kamloops strain of rainbow trout].  I knew it was early, yet just like at this time of the year these trout have the urge to go on the spawning run, I have the urge to go to try to catch some of them.  My brother Ed met me up there.  Few days before he caught a steelhead but that was it for the day.  Yes it is early.  The rivers are still a little low but did have good flow.  Most rivers were a little stained except the Sucker which was running on the clear side.

I did see some anglers at the new McQuade boat landing fishing within the boat landing area and also folks were out trolling from there near shore.  The French river was packed with shore anglers as usual.  However the rest of the rivers had moderate fishing pressure.  Fishing pressure will increase in the coming weeks.  Warmer weather and some rain will push the majority of the tout in the rivers to spawn.  I’ll be going up again soon.  I’ll give it a week, and by then I would think we will have more trout and a better chance to land one.  Remember to release all steelhead.  If they have all their fins then it’s a steelhead.  One clipped, and it’s a looper and you can keep them.

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Even the smaller streams have a trout run.  You can see a few guys trolling in the background.  They troll stickbaits and spoons near the surface this time of the year.

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There were still ice banks near shore in some of the shady areas of some streams.  Best not to stand on them this time of the year.  Ed was standing on solid ground.

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Got a nice pic of a full arc of a rainbow formed by the spray from the falls.

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Gooseberry Falls had many tourists the day we were there.  We were the only two anglers there.

NORTH SHORE FISHING

It is that time of the year again.  Time for the steelhead and Loopers to make the spring run up the North Shore trout streams.  I look forward to this every year.  Last year we had a very good run of steelhead along with loopers.  So far this year with the early spring, the streams are a little on the low side with the water fairly clear.  We need some rain to push the rainbows into the streams from the big lake.

My brother Ed, and his friend Joel,  were up the shore yesterday to try the rivers flowing into Lake Superior.  Fishing was very slow with very few fish in the rivers.  They did see a few fish but no takers.  So I’ll be putting update’s on here from time to time for those interested in going up to the North Shore to try their luck.  My guess is that more fish will move in the rivers after some rain that is moving in that area today through tomorrow.  This is just the beginning of the spring run.  Fish will be spawning well into May, so there will be time to fish for those who can’t go as often as they wish.

On his way back from Florida a few days ago Ed stopped by the Menomonie River in Eastern Wisconsin to try for some steelhead.  He did get this one and a couple of others. Now for some on the North Shore.

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NEW MILLE LACS REGS

Well get ready for catch and release this year.  Regulations designed to protect the fish needed to rebuild Mille Lacs Lake’s walleye population will require that walleye anglers use only artificial bait and immediately release all walleye when Minnesota’s 2016 fishing season opens Saturday, May 14.

“A catch-and-release walleye season allows us to protect future spawners yet acknowledges the desire that fishing remain open,” said Don Pereira, fisheries chief for the DNR.  “.  “Not allowing harvest is a difficult decision but it provides our best option.”

From May 14 to Thursday, Dec. 1, anglers targeting walleye must use artificial bait and immediately release all walleye caught.  Anglers targeting northern pike and muskellunge may possess and use sucker minnows longer than 8 inches but all other anglers must not possess any other bait that is live, dead, frozen or processed.

Other changed regulations for the 2016 season on Mille Lacs include:

Walleye:  Night closure beginning Monday, May 16, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and continuing through Dec. 1.  Muskellunge anglers may fish at night but all baits, live or artificial, in possession must be at least 8 inches long.

Northern Pike:  Five fish with only one longer than 40 inches.  All northern 30-40 inches long must be immediately released.

Bass:  Four fish with only one longer than 21 inches.  All fish 17-21 inches long must be immediately released.

My understanding is that the native Indian Tribes have suspended netting this year except for ceremonial purposes.

STEELHEAD 2016

North Shore rivers and other tributaries to Lake Superior are still asleep, but last years’s remarkable steelhead run and intrigue about the 2016 return are increasing anticipation for April fishing from Duluth to Grand Marais and beyond.  “Last year was pretty darn good, so we are hoping for another one,” said Russ Francisco of Marine General in Duluth.

According to the Rainbow Trout Management Summary for the Minnesota Waters of Lake Superior, the state Department of Natural Resources[DNR] recorded a shorewide catch of 3,588 steelhead last spring, 40 percent more than the historic average.  The spike was achieved despite a low turnout of anglers, including some who were deterred by on again, off again stream flows.    Nick Peterson, a migratory fish specialist for the DNR in Duluth, said angling hours in April and May last season declined by 32 percent to 21,120 for the period.  Together with the abundance of fish, North Shore anglers enjoyed the highest steelhead catch rates in at least 23 years.

“Last year it was right on the money in terms of timing of the spring,” Peterson said.  Fishable rivers flows sparked by pulses of rain were a welcomed change from the previous two springs, when late ice and cold disrupted spawning runs.  By contrast in 2015, Duluth-area streams started to clear in early April and all rivers up the shore were free of ice by late-April.  That could be the case again this year.

The DNR surveys anglers at 18 North Shore tributaries and operates a steelhead fish trap on the Knife River.  Steelhead retuns in 2015 were the highest observed since the trap became operational in 1996, the agency said.

Craig Wilson, president of the Lake Superior Steelhead Association, said the flourish last year could be attributed in part to good stocking from 22008-10.  Eggs were collected from wild adults, hatched in DNR facilities and fry returned to the river.  If the young mature in the river for two years before swimming to Lake Superior, they have an approximately one-in-eight chance of returning to spawn four or five years later, Wilson said.  They can return to spawn six times in their lifetimes.

We are starting to see stocking make a difference,” he said.  But Peterson said returns are difficult to predict from year to year, and low returns are possible.  He said DNR stream assessments in the Knife River and its tributaries found few juvenile steelhead from the 2011 and 2012 year classes.  “The influence of these weak year classes on adult returns should start to be realized with adult returns in 2016,” Peterson wrote in his latest report. From Tony Kennedy  writer for the Star Tribune.

MOOSE UPDATE

Minnesota’s moose population remains low despite a slowing population decline during the past five years, the DNR said.  Results from the 2016 aerial moose survey indicate that the population change from an estimated 3,450 in 2015 to 4,020  in 2016 is not statistically significant.  Northeastern Minnesota’s current moose population could be as high as 5,180 or as low as 3,230.

“Moose are not recovering in northeastern Minnesota,” said Glenn DelGiudice, moose project leader for the DNR.  “It’s encouraging to see that the decline in the population since 2012 has not been as steep, but longer term projections continue to indicate that our moose population decline will continue.”

Annual population comparisons are made to 2006 because northeastern Minnesota’s highest moose population estimate of 8,840 occurred that year.  Since then, the moose population has declined 55 percent.  Studies have shown that adult moose survival has the greatest long-term impact on moose populations.  Northeastern Minnesota’s collective moose population may be reflecting the annual survival rate of moose collared as part of the DNR’s moose mortality research project, which shows that survival of adult moose increased from 81 percent in 2013 to 88 percent in 2014 and 85 percent in 2015.

DelGiudice said more calves surviving beyond their first year also may be slowing the short-term population decline.  Data collected in fall and early winter 2015 document the number of calves that remained with their mothers.  These data reflect the 2016 population survey estimate that 17 percent of Minnesota moose are calves, up from 13 percent in 2015 and 15 percent in 2014.

this year’s survey involved flying 52 survey plats distributed across northeastern Minnesota from Jan. 4-15.  The Fon du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel to assist Minnesota DNR with the annual moose survey.  Check out more information about Minnesota moose  on http://www.mndnr.gov/moose.

LEGEND OF JOHN BEARGREASE

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Since 1980, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon has attracted mushers from around the world.  Beginning in Duluth and running 400 miles along the north shore of Lake Superior to the Canadian border, the Beargrease is one of the longest, most grueling race routes outside of Alaska.  With the 30th running of the marathon starting later this month, many people are asking “Who is John Beargrease” and Why does he have a sled dog race named after him?”.

John Beargreas’s story began in a wigwam on the outskirts of the first settlement along the north shore of Lake Superior, Beaver Bay.  The son of an Anishinabe Chief, Beargrease grew up fishing, hunting, and trapping along the north shore with his father and two brothers.  When he was in his teens he worked on commercial fishing boats that sailed up and down the coastline.  By the time he was in his twenties, a few more small settlements had sprung up along the north shore, including Agate Bay [now Two Harbors], Castle Danger, Pork Bay, Grand Marais, and Grand Portage.  Since the train only went as far as Agate Bay, people along the shore had a hard time sending and receiving mail.  Since this was often the only form of communication with the outside world.

Letters and packages from family and friends were extremely important.  Since Beargrease and his brothers made regular trips up and down the shore trapping and trading, they began to grab the mail in Agate Bay for the residents along the shore and deliver it as they checked their traps or traded with other residents.  By 1879, the brothers were making trips for the mail and delivering it all the way to Grand Marais once or twice per week.

Over the next twenty years, Beargrease was a welcome sight for people living along the north shore.  They would eagerly await his arrival each week.  He not only delivered mail from their loved ones, he also brought local and national news, weather reports from up and down the shore, and for some- a little company.  Beargrease would make his route year ’round in all types of weather.  In the warmer months he would deliver the mail by canoe or boat, but he was best known for his winter travels by dogsled.  he made his fastest dogsled trip from Agate Bay to Grand Marais with a load of about 700 lbs. of mail in just under 28 hours.  In the summer, he could make the same trip by boat in about 20 hours.

John Beargrease made his last mail delivery on April 26, 1899.  By that time, the trail he traveled for over twenty years had become a well-used road.  He made his last delivery using a horse and buggy instead of a canoe or dogsled.  Beargrease continued his successful trading business along the north shore, making his home in Beaver Bay and among his people in Grand Portage.  One day in 1910, he went out in a storm to rescue a mail carrier whose boat was caught in the waves of tamarack Point, near Grand Portage.  He caught pneumonia after the ordeal and died soon after.  His grave can be seen today at the Indian Cemetery in Beaver Bay.

Because of his reliable and successful mail delivery, the population along the north shore grew and the economy stabilized.  Small settlements grew into permanent towns with residents who continue to recognize  the role John Beargrease played in their history.  Forgotten Minnesota.

HIBERNATING BEARS

Do hibernating bears ever leave their den during winter if the weather gets unusually warm?  hibernating bears are prompted to come out of their den both by warming temperatures and by increasing day length [normally late March to early April].  thus, a January thaw typically will not fool a bear into coming out early.  However, some bears may find themselves in a wet den when temperatures get warm, with snow melting around their den, and this could force them out.

Bears also may be more prone to disturbance from humans during warm spells when they are not hibernating as soundly, and this could cause them to vacate their den.  After abandoning their den, they will typically find another suitable site that they already know about.  However, any new den would not have the bedding material that bears rake in during the fall when they are preparing for hibernation.  Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research biologist.

CATFISH IN WINTER

During the winter months, the two large catfish species present in Minnesota behave differently.   Channel catfish remain active and will congregate in loose schools in the rivers and lakes they inhabit.  Anglers can target these fish through the ice [if ice is thick enough], or even in open water in deeper, slow-moving areas of rivers.  The Horseshoe Chain of Lakes near Cold Spring is a popular destination for anglers looking to target channel catfish through the ice.

 

Flathead catfish, on the other hand, migrate to wintering areas when the water temperatures dip down to 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.  They congregate in deep holes in the rivers, out of the current, and essentially go dormant until the water warms in the spring.   Many dozens of these large fish can stack up on top of one another in groups and are highly vulnerable to illegal snagging.  A recent change in Minnesota fishing regulations has closed the angling season for flathead catfish from Dec. 1 to March 31 to protect these large, dormant fish from being over exploited.

SWEDISH SAUSAGE

Christmas is coming up and time for some Swedish sausage.  This tasty sausage is great anytime but I do make it mostly for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  Check out the Homemade Sausage page for step by steps on how to make this popular sausage.

THIRD WEEKEND NUMBERS

Minnesota firearms hunters registered 128,174 deer through the third weekend of firearms deer season, up from 112,715 from the same period in 2014 according to the DNR .  So far this year during special hunts and the archery, early antlerless and firearms seasons, hunters have harvested 145,383 deer, up from the 2014 to-date harvest total of 128,134.  Preliminary numbers show that the number of deer registered rose 13.5 percent from 2014.

Buck harvest during the firearms season was up 18.4 percent from last year, indicating that the population has in fact grown from its low point two springs ago.  Zone 1 total firearms harvest was up 11 percent, Zone 2 was up 15.5 percent and Zone 3 was up 7.7 percent.  Buck harvest was up significantly in all zones.

The DNR has projected the 2015 total deer harvest to be between 140,000 to 155,000 deer.  The 2014 total harvest after last year’s conservative season was just over 139,000.

In much of Minnesota, the last day of firearms deer season was Nov. 15.  The northern rifle zone season continued through Nov. 22.  Additional deer will be harvested during the late southeastern season, which runs Saturday, Nov. 21, through Sunday, Nov. 29: the muzzleloader season, which begins Saturday, Nov. 28, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 13: and the archery season, which runs through Thursday, Dec. 31.  Final numbers from all deer seasons will be available in January.

New this year, hunters can preview an interactive deer information tool being developed by the DNR at http://www.mndnr.gov/deermap.  This map is the first step toward launching an online application that delivers useful information hunters need and want.  Hunters are encouraged to take a look at the application, discuss it and provide the DNR with feedback.  More information on deer management can be found at http://www.mndnr.gov/deer.

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