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


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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