Sunday, March 23, 2014

STEELHEAD DON'T HAVE A CALENDAR!....WHAT THE SPRING RUN WILL BE...BLINDING US WITH SCIENCE!

( AN OLD CLASSIC SLAYED THE CROC/ KYPED DOUBLE RED BANDER MALE- THE RIPPLE CRUSH)


( very fat brown full of midges and scuds..the egg binge is soon to start and so is the early black stones- for these fish to survive the winter being that fat is a grand testimonial to the Muskegon's alkaline food infused ecosystem!


Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward. -C.S. Lewis.....sums up winter

This brutal winter won't let go!....went to Traverse City MI today at Streamside Orvis to do a book signing and from Mesick to TC it looked like a blowing snow tundra- icy roads..come back to Newaygo and we have sunshine...22F up there..35 F here...Lima OH where my son is playing national league soccer this weekend..balmy 45F.Tonight back to zero F in Newaygo for next few nights...and wind chills below zero!....I HAVE LOST IT!

Crossed the Pere Marquette and the cars were in the parking lots of the motels...all of them looked good and had business,,,the calendar spells the big bite?...OR DOES IT!..

So the last day I guided  my good client and friend Bill Wegge From Wisconsin a few days ago, a swing freak..no "'chunk n" F'lnk" for me, Bill says". We saw a huge drop in water temps. We dredging T-20 on 600 gr. Skagits and managed nothing but fat brownies on the swing in very deep water...BUT THAT'S GOOD!...the days before when it was a balmy 34F , we crushed some dark hen steels on two separate days

HOW WILL THE 2014 STEELHEAD RUN SHAPE UP!-BLINDING US WITH SCIENCE



I can remember the winter of 2003/2004- it was bloody cold-but nowhere near what we have experienced. We had steelhead in the river until June 14th. With the very slow and cold transition into spring , there will be NO fast run off of flooding like in years past. The climatological data so far - NOAA and predictions show a very mild and cool spring and summer and a progressive colder weather pattern for Midwest and East over the next 5 years...that should bring those carbon fueled warming temps down a few Celsius divots me thinks. This slow warming is very good for the entire steelhead and trout fisheries.
Let's first look at the water table and lake levels. Despite some record flooding the past two years , the water table/subterranean aquifers are down because all the water blew off in spate- didn't have time to peculate gradually into the water caverns below. With a slow melt off it will.

THE RUN AND THE GREGORIAN CALENDER!
Steelhead don't have Gregorian calendars and make their run because it is March and April. They use four prime factors to govern their migrations; water temperatures, photo period light levels , hormonal sexual maturity advancement and flow impulses. 

Let's look at water temperatures first in the big lakes-Michigan/Huron /Erie......THEY ARE TOTALLY FROZEN OVER!...The average temperatures at all thermoclines are so well below normal because of this deep frozen lock that satellite readings are not possible. Steelhead are very similar to humans...(woaaah!...I know I'm going out on a fragile limb here!) Some fish have more genetic innate predispositions and polarities towards any one of the above four indicators for migration and spawning. Some are more driven by photo light period by measuring daylight through their Pineal glands and use that as their prime indication. So steelhead parents that are used to running in mid May for instance will innate imprint their off spring to that photo length of daylight to run. So how do steelhead in the big lakes imprint to photo period of light when they are completely covered in the darkness of the frozen abyss...good question- the upcoming week's zero F temps will do nothing to hasten ice breaking up .
(darker hen steelhead from this week)

As for 'spate or flow ' driven lateral line migration, if it stays cold , there will be now major flow migration since the water will slowly trickle up - thus the run of fish will do the same...trickle in over a long period of time.
River temps, especially on the Muskegon will be so sub normal due to the massive amount of ice on Croton and Hardy which is feet thick. Also given that they are spilling off the top due to their year long turbine renovation, water that is coming out is as cold to 33F as possible. Most of the steelhead we have been catching have been darker hold over steelhead with a somewhat chrome one here and there. 
BUT , the good news is sexual hormonal advancement - this is the push comes to shove trump card! The steelhead have to move in good numbers eventually and will circumnavigate all obstacles. It may seem like early February for most fish from conditions, but their biological hormonal clocks are ticking as they have for millions of years of successful life survival strategies.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IN A NUTSHELL!
Good stuff!-very good stuff!.........Prepare for a very long steelhead run lasting into June- everywhere-even Erie/Ontario!- spring steelhead will overlap summer Skamania!. Prepare for a long slow trickle of fish. Prepare for some very large fish since the more time they spend in the lake and estuaries the more they will still 'side chow' on gobies/alewives/shiners/sculpins etc.....just getting bigger and sexually riper and gaining pounds! And the cold temps will keep the urge to spawn down, so they won't just come in and 'dump-and-run'. like they did with warm up floods in the past- not physically possible with low water temperatures.Remember also, that Muskegon fish have to navigate long distances for Lake Michigan, then a very frozen long Muskegon Lake, then 35 miles of river....that takes weeks and months...think about it. This is not a short blast up the river like on the AuSable below Foote Dam, which is and will see chrome dime bright fish much quicker then us...so will the PM.
SO....if you think you've missed out and its too late, brother it hasn't even started!...We still have a few dates left and would love to get you back out on the water when it is somewhat comfortable and your are not beating on the same beaten winter fish that everyone else has been beating on!...fresh fish are on their way!!!!

TROUT FISHERY
This is all very good news for the trout fishery on the Muskegon. It's rich biologically diverse in food ecosystem has kept them very fat all winter with no freeze ups.The early black stone flies haven't started yet..I just saw two wiggling nymphs in the past week. Two years ago the hatch was almost over by now. The chinook fry are just thinking about hatching- water temp thing again. The very cold water temps are keeping mayfly and caddis nymph and larvae development way low, so the  hatches will be for a longer period and later into the year. Couple this with a threat of a cool summer and BINGO!...might have an outstanding trout year!





FINALLY- TROUT STOCKING

I have developed a relationship with Gary Whelan of the MDNR over the years- he is in charge of the entire state's hatchery program.Gary is an amazing biologist and passionate fly fisher who has fished all over.He told me last week that the trout stocking will be delayed because of all the cold weather and other complications this winter has brought. I have been asking him if we could get back the brown trout stockings of the Gilchrist wild strain browns that we had in the Muskegon back in the early 2003/4 period and were yanked for no apparent reason. I told him we would love to see those fish again and they did phenomenal in the MO since they are very aloof, discriminating and grow to very large sizes and can tolerate higher water temps. He is working on doing so for this year. Here are what the browns used to look like back then- this gentleman from New York- John Walsh, caught two hogs with us on the caddis/gray drake hatch back on a June gentle evening.
I also asked Gary if we could get the new wild Sturgeon strain browns which he is looking into it. The domesticated hatchery strain Wild Rose don't do well on the Muskegon. They don't have the wild genetics anymore top give them the allusive qualities necessary to survive on a river that get hammered to death by bait, hardware and fly anglers at an amazing frequency and allows plenty of  kill and no release. These two strains are survivors and that's what our trout fishery needs. The rainbows can get get big and selective also , but are more easily harvested which is OK if it protects the browns for the fly fishers who are 90% C&R anglers.
*****IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE GILCHRIST AND/ OR STURGEON WILD BROWNS STOCKED IN THE MUSKEGON?*****....please email Gary Whelan at MDNR