Adam Chesney, a senior at UMD, shows off his first Kamloop rainbow trout ever at the McQuade Harbor just north of Duluth on Lake Superior.
If April doesn’t seem unbearably wintry enough, imagine being stuck out in the icy waters of Lake Superior. Imagine being a fish.
With the north shore rivers still frozen, the lake’s hardy rainbow trout — steelhead and Kamloops — are still waiting to migrate upstream to where they were born and keep the cycle going by laying their own eggs.
Only once the rivers thaw and water temperatures reach 42 degrees will the rivers be flipping and flopping with their speckled silver bodies. But, for now, they’re huddling in harbors and sticking close to shore where the water is warmer.
One of Duluth’s most popular steelhead rainbow trout fishing “hotspots” on the mouth of the Lester River is both frozen and blocked off from the lake by a barricade-like delta of small rocks making it impossible for the fish to enter and spawn.
Local fishermen are equally as eager for the rivers to thaw.
Adam Chesney, a UMD senior in the Environmental Health and Safety Masters program, was one among a handful of fishermen at the McQuade Harbor just north of Duluth on Lake Superior, April 14.
The small harbor had a thin layer of ice and a few left over snow-bergs from earlier in the winter.
“I was here last night and there were probably about 30 people,” he said. “The ice wasn’t here either, so more people could fit in here and get their lines out.”
To find open water for fishing, Chesney and two of his friends climbed down the boulders that make up the harbor pier and set up their fishing gear near the outlet of the harbor.
The few fishermen that stayed on the inside of the harbor had to break holes in the ice with their fishing nets in order to get their bobbers in the water.
Matt, a senior at Denfeld High School, casts his bobber into the water at the outlet of McQuade Harbor.
Despite the cold weather and inconvenient fishing location, Chesney, a first-time rainbow trout fishermen, said he was having a blast.
By ten o’clock in the morning he had already reeled in two large Kamloops. Fishermen call them “loopers.”
“I couldn’t feel them hit because of the wind,” he said. “But I just waited to set the hook and then the battle began.”
He used a bobber to float a Looper Bug and Wax Worm off the bottom of the harbor for bait.
Moon Shine Country
It takes a certain breed of college students to pass up beaches, bikinis and beer on spring break and UMD’s got them.
RSOP sent 20 adventure-seeking students to the southeast over spring break, but 300 miles inland and 5,000 feet above any ocean beach.
Students Zach Gill, Erin Denny, Charlie Milton, Katie Houg and Nick Rorem led two different groups on a chilly 50-mile hiking trip up-and-down the Appalachian Trail along the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
The two groups of hikers came from different levels of experience, varied from freshmen to senior and, for the first time in a while, had a balanced number of men and women.
“Two years ago on the same trip, it was like all boys and one girl,” Houg said. “Now, I think both trips had pretty even male-female ratios.”
Denny, also the Outdoor Trips Coordinator for RSOP, added, “I’ve been noticing a huge increase in women participation in all of our (RSOP) events, which is crazy cool.”
The trip not only saw an increase in women, but in general participation.
“We didn’t know we were going to have two groups,” Gill said. “It was overbooked, so we decided to do two trips.”
Along with the surprising attendance numbers, the crew also didn’t expect cold weather.
“Weather is always a wild card,” Gill said. “But I didn’t expect 9 degree mornings.”
“I woke up one morning and there were a couple inches (of snow) on the ground and I was like, ‘What is this? Minnesota?” Matt Worms, a freshman in Gill’s group, said.
Unexpected conditions call for makeshift solutions.
“The water filters froze,” Houg said. “So, Nick stuck them in his armpits during a windy snow storm. It worked after trying everything else.”
Some hikers didn’t pack gloves, so they wore wool socks on their hands.
“Everybody was willing to adapt to the conditions and find beauty and joy amidst the unexpected cold,” Houg said.