Heavy rain impacts North Shore rivers as fall fly fishing heats up
Joe Friedrichs
Outdoor News

Heavy rain impacts North Shore rivers as fall fly fishing heats up

Heavy rain in recent days has North Shore streams and rivers flowing steadily once again as increased water flows invite spawning fish inland from Lake Superior.

“These first few rain events in September are critical for fall-spawning fish and the anglers that fish for them,” said Cory Goldsworthy, the Lake Superior area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “The increased flow clears out any gravel bars that might be cutting off the mouth of the river from the lake allowing fish to access the rivers during their spawning runs.”

Rain events were frequent from Sept. 15-17 for most of the WTIP listening area. The Grand Marais area closer to Lake Superior saw about 2 inches of rain, while areas at the end of the Gunflint Trail received more than 4 inches of rain.

Goldsworthy told WTIP that the increased river flow also signals fall-spawning fish that conditions are right and “if water temperatures are cool enough we should start to see salmon, steelhead, and brook trout start entering the rivers.”

Pink salmon are the most abundant species observed in the fall spawning run, the DNR reports. In September, they begin migration and seek spawning areas in Lake Superior tributaries, particularly after steady rain as was observed Sept. 15-17 for most of the WTIP listening area. Depending on the year, decent numbers of “humpbacks,” as pink salmon are often called, can be found congregating near river mouths, according to the DNR.

In October, native coaster brook trout will migrate to spawn in tributaries and shoal areas of Lake Superior. Although few coho and chinook salmon reproduce successfully on Minnesota’s North Shore, limited runs of these species also enter tributaries in October, the DNR notes.

Many anglers choose fly fishing for their approach when it comes to pursuing spawning fish in the spring and fall along the numerous North Shore rivers and streams. And when it comes fly fishing, the activity conjures many images for spirited anglers: Remote streams, waders and a brimmed cap, looping line from a roll cast dancing behind a setting sun.

And then there’s the Cook County canoe version: trolling.

It doesn’t always have to be fancy or romantic to go fly fishing on inland lakes in northeastern Minnesota. In fact, trolling a fly that looks like a minnow is a fine way to pursue fish in Cook County from a canoe. And there’s no better season than fall for such an activity. In the most recent episode of the WTIP Outdoor News Podcast, hosts Kalli Hawkins and Joe Friedrichs learn this firsthand. Kalli and Joe recently trolled with Clouser minnow flies on a local lake.

Also featured in this episode of the podcast is local angler and fly fishing instructor Michael Hero. A dedicated fly angler who frequents the North Shore tributaries that flow into Lake Superior, Hero shares insights on fall fly fishing in Cook County.