Lake Superior Rainbow Trout and their Fishermen are Quite the Resilient Creatures

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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.Image

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.”

Along with the frozen rivers, lake ice is just another hurdle for fishermen to overcome.Image

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.

Other fishermen pulled up to the landing of the harbor, saw it was frozen, and then turned back around to where they came from.Image

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.

“They do a lot of acrobatics: a lot of flipping and flopping around until they come out of the water.”Image

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Who are those magic fairies who maintain Duluth’s outdoor rinks?

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About the same time you start slipping into your footie pajamas and settling down for the night, volunteer outdoor ice rink flooders are lacing up their boots and heading to the rinks.

     Duluth’s outdoor ice skating rinks are maintained by dedicated volunteer hockey parents and UMD’s Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.

     Without these volunteers, maintaining the over 17 outdoor rinks wouldn’t be possible for Duluth.

     “It keeps the cost down,” Pat Hall said, a volunteer flooder at the Lower Chester ice rinks. Hall was one among three hockey dads flooding the rinks the Friday night, Feb. 15. His son plays hockey for Lower Chester.

     The parents rotate flooding nights in accordance to a schedule they sign up for.

THE FLOODING PROCESS

     The flooders arrive at the rinks around closing time. 

     Before they can do anything, the snow and ice shreddings left over from day skaters have to come off the ice. They grab shovels and brooms and go to work, clearing one rink at a time.

     If there’s a lot of snow, they use a Bobcat tractor to haul the main load. The clearing process takes at least an hour, sometimes more.     

     Once the ice is clean, it’s polished with a Zamboni – a machine that can shave bumps off the ice.

     Then, finally, it’s time for the flooding. A thick hose, long enough to reach the far corners of the rinks, is used to spray water evenly onto the ice.

     When the water freezes, they go back and spray on more.

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     The goal of flooding is to fill in the cracks and add layers of ice onto the rinks so they are fresh and ready for skating by the next morning.

     “There’s a lot of pressure coming out of that hose,” Jeremy Carlson said, one of the Lower Chester flooders on Friday night.

     He has two children in the Lower Chester hockey program.

     “I wear these cleats on my feet,” Carlson explained, pointing at his boots. “Otherwise, the hose will spin ya right around.

     The hose is so long and heavy it takes three people to work it. The headman sprays the water, another helps hold it and a third person helps carry the hose to the next spot that needs to be sprayed.

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Early Springtime Surfers

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Early Springtime Surfers

Two surfers from Duluth and Rod (center) from Minneapolis take on the tall Lake Superior waves near the mouth of the Lester River, April 2. Rod left his work in Minneapolis early in order to make it in time to hit the waves before the sun went down. Despite the cold water temperature of 42 degrees, the surfers could not resist the almost perfect conditions, with waves as high as 10 feet.