Friday, January 29, 2016

Predicting and excellent Winter and Spring Steelhead Run-Here's why!- Forage Base looking Up

With temperatures approaching 40F this weekend (last week in January 2016) and with so far a very mild winter, we are seeing a good number of fresh "Valentine's Day' steelhead already coming into the river systems after the past full "wolf 'moon cycle.

After my nice long discussion with the" Doctor" of Great Lakes forage base knowledge- Chuck Madenjian at the USGS in Ann Arbor, MI, who does the trawl netting bait fish sampling of the lakes, despite a long-term uncertainty with the alewife population- which has always been severely cyclical, he was very optimistic about the 2014/15 year class of alwives . It is something charter captains have been noticing despite doom and gloom data collections from Chuck. 

The last few steelhead I have caught guiding are showing signs that that they are feeding heavily on that year class, along with other bloater chubs, sticklebacks, gobies- and more recent in the diet mix: the growing perch, sculpin and smelt populations, which are on the increase, along with anything they can get their mouth around. Warmer lake temps translate into more aggressive/active feeding, rather than passive/dormant states of predator behavior, like we have seen in the past two brutal Polar Vortex winters . (#Selectivity).

Yesterday we saw one of a series of half dozen "solid' decent sized females/males that were more of the shape of what we are used to seeing on the Muskegon- large and rotund- not thin and undernourished like we saw at the beginning of the fall .

(January 28th- well proportioned hen steel)

( Jan/2016- well proportioned male- Dr. Zaccheo)

 Despite a dismal fall,  by early December , we started seeing hefty steelhead, with body shapes that indicated excellent forage and growth.
(Here are Dr. Davidson and the Steelhead Queen in December /2015 with some gorgeous well proportioned females from the 'old mold cut'.)

This bodes well for a strong spring run since the fall run was weak due to warm and low waters in November. ( weak fall runs have translated to 'stronger' spring runs in past history- but not always!) Later running  gives the steelhead extra time to pack down on bait fish during the December/January period as they approach shorelines with river effluent/power plant discharges, which attract bait- like Consumers Power plant on Muskegon Lake were bait stacks up- especially with a mild 'el nino' winter.

Our trout have also been feeding heavily on the Muskegon, and especially the Big Manistee below Tippy , which is loaded with an insane population of  12-16 inch brown trout , and should be great size by the time the first salmon sac fry hatch and the first egg laying female stone flies are on the water in April/May....lots of good stuff to look forward to! Remember, everything has been running "LATE' for the past two years with the massive Great Lakes ice overs and cold temperatures- nothing new! As global warming heated the rest of the planet, the Great Lakes were in a virtual ice-age.

For more interesting reading, here is an excellent article explaining more of the story.

( Are Lake Michigan steelhead this size still possible- we will see very shortly)              

Cheers!...hope to see you in 2016!- very optimistic about this spring based on what we are currently witnessing .