Sunday, September 4, 2016

THE GREAT LAKES CRYSTAL BALL 2016- PART II- STEELHEAD

OVERVIEW
   The only thing steelheaders have to fear is their own fears themselves ... paranoia, greed, immediate gratification and an over expectation attitude behavior fueling it. Let's face it, these fish have been loved to death. And,  have seen an amazing two decade "wild" fluctuation in catch ratios. From the insane double digit days of "steelhead alley", to insane sizes of over-fed steelhead on alewives in the 199/2000 cusp, to days of slim pickings on Erie tribs, diminishing sizes everywhere due to lack of forage base, exotic predators and overfishing- oh!, dont forget the see-saw ride of global climate change and freezing over of all the Great Lakes into one giant iceberg (2015)- to the hottest lake temperatures ever recorded this summer will bestow. 

The steelhead's worst enemy is politics( state /province and federal agencies trying to please too many at the victim of the fish themselves) and modern google/apple technology, that has created insatiable, immediate gratification 'monsters' out of all steelheaders- not to mention the death knell of the 'numbers game'. 'Too much information too fast and NOW", has taken the charm, mystique, 'fish of a thousand casts' romance out of the true old glory days of McMillan/Combs/Waller etc., when each steelhead was earned and admired- not insisted upon! Guides/outfitters/lodges, trying to make a living  thru all this mess are also to blame ( me included!). Fast acting social media/blogs/real time/steelhead sites etc.,  take that romantic mystery hunt out of the search for the elusive chrome wanderer. 
Enough of the pulpit! - thank you for indulging me, but I think you know my gist of it. Everyone just relax, enjoy being on the river, forget about the numbers- like the old days when you caught "one" steelhead was a BIG DEAL!

PROGNOSIS-LOOKING GOOD!


The fluctuating and constantly changing forage base of the Great Lakes is only favoring the eventual dominance of steelhead as the apex predator. The downturn of the alewives that kings are 'so hardwired to' ( yes steelhead will gorge on them if they are there!), but their preference for multi-foraging appetites allows them the comfort of  a slow attacking scavenging trout that will eat almost anything. Gobies, perch, cisco, smelt, shiners, sculpins, mysis shrimp, sticklebacks are all on the 'up-and up" and filling the steelhead bellies nicely

BIG NEWS-NO CHUMMING ALLOWED IN MICHIGAN WATERS- designated trout/salmon/steelhead rivers
If Michigan's (liberal angling policies) drove you away in search of much better steelhead management waters like the Salmon River in NY, you need not fear any longer. For anglers that were disgusted to see anglers/guides pull up to pools and toss gallons of salmon eggs to turn on an artificial/self indulging fake bite, that will be no more. Effective 'NOW", there is no more chumming, and steelhead will now be able and must chase a fly, nymph, egg, egg sack, intruder, spinner, plug, to have its aggressive needs sparked. That was a big move and all are now on an equal playing field and must earn and enjoy each fish in a classic old school way- just say'in!
WINTER RUN STEEL

Given the size of some of the salmon being caught in the big lake this summer, their side-by side predators- winter steelhead, should show some amazing growth rates and sizes- also given the fact that they are multi- foraging beasts- it should be an amazing fall run which we shall soon see .
Also, given the massive increase in native and exotic shrimp, Hexagenia  hatches, emerald shiner/perch and sculpin populations , these will give the fish extra poundage.
SUMMER STEELHEAD

The verdict isn't really concluded and out yet on the summer run of 2016-  but it has been brutally disappointing. Yes I have managed to find fish, but nothing like years past. The big problem is/was the hellish heat wave of 2016, coupled with epic droughts, than a flood. We only had 'ONE'- lake thermal cold conversion all summer-(second one is going on now and seeing the second wave of fresh migration. The month of September( trending now!) might be epic- stay tuned!
BOTTOM LINE
(The fall runs of 2010/2011 were the best we have seen in 20 years- both on the cusp of hot summers/low water levels, warm autumn weather and a "sleeper bumper crop of alweives' we are now just seeing in 2016 in some lake areas.( this image October 20th, 2010- water levels were bloody low and warm- chumming was illegal that year btw)
Going strictly by my 20 years of keeping accurate records/temps/catch rates /migration timing etc., I'm predicting an amazing fall for several reasons( ain't guide talk :).
1.Looking back at epic fall runs like the ones in 2010/2011, they had hot summers/ low water autumns with only a trickle of water. Lake temperatures were warm. The warmer temps leaves the " window of run' migration opportunity opened longer into December. A very cold quick winter arrival will take longer to build up due to warm water levels.
2. Warmer water will keep steelhead out deeper with more foraging opportunities- cold waters spread the bait out and thus the fish hunt harder and less fruitful
3. Better size and abundance of salmon mean less targeting of steelhead by charters- this year charters have done well on salmon concentrated on forage based schools of prey.
BUT!!!...in the end, we shall see!- least I can do is give you my prognosis - still much, much, much better than last year!- get out and enjoy a day on the river and  learn to become better and more caring steelheaders- it's more fun that way! ( for more reading- lots more info here- just say'in)