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Brule steelheaders should find fish — if they find the river

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Although final figures haven’t been totaled, last fall’s steelhead run on the Bois Brule River appears to be similar to that of 2012, said Paul Piszczek, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist at Superior.

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The fall 2012 run totaled nearly 4,600 steelhead.

“The fall (2013) run was right around that range,” Piszczek said. “So far, in general, we’ve seen a really good mix of browns and steelhead and cohos, with a handful of kings here and there. And there were many ’jacks (juvenile steelhead) up to 15 inches.”

The early steelhead season on the Brule from U.S. Highway 2 to Lake Superior opens Saturday. .

Ken Lundberg, president of the Brule River Sportsmen’s Club, welcomed the report about good numbers of young steelhead in the fall run.

“That would be wonderful news,” said Lundberg, of Lake Nebagamon. “We’ve had two years of (high-water) events that have really taken the fry out of the river. We’re concerned that we’re going to have a fishery that’s going to go through a little dip just because of nature.”

High-water events can flush many fry, or just-hatched steelhead, down the river prematurely, depleting spawning runs in future years.

Adult steelhead ascend the Brule from Lake Superior each fall and spend the winter in the river, then spawn the following spring. Typically, a smaller portion of the steelhead run ascends the river in spring to spawn. DNR officials review videotapes of fish as they pass by a monitor at the Brule River lamprey barrier.

Last spring, 2,177 steelhead migrated up the Brule, for a total 2012-13 run of 6,771. That news was welcomed by anglers after the 2011-12 run of just 4,672, the lowest in many years. The average of fall/spring runs for the past seven years is 7,082.

DNR fisheries officials believe the Brule’s steelhead population has rebounded somewhat after the low 2011-12 run.

“I see the number of fish, and from the reports I receive, things are pretty decent out there,” Piszczek said. “We were coming off a high, we hit that low and now we’ve bounced back to that mid-range.”

Aside from the number of steelhead in the river, Brule anglers may be faced with challenging conditions just getting to the river on Saturday.

“It’ll probably be snowshoes,” Lundberg said.

“There’s a ton of snow in the woods,” Piszcek said. “I walked down to the fishway (lamprey barrier), and I was over knee-deep without snowshoes.”

Ice goes out on the Brule from upstream to downstream each spring. It was open at the Brule River State Forest ranger station on March 11, according to Cathy Khalar, visitor services associate, and at U.S. Highway 2 as of March 14, Piszczek said, but anglers might want to scout the river or make some calls to find out how far down the ice is out before the opener.

“It would be very discouraging to walk through all of that snow, come over the hill and realize you didn’t have your ice auger with you,” Lundberg said. “But we’ve had years like this before.”

Anglers also should be aware that with the deep snow, parking lots might not be as spacious as in other years, Lundberg said, and parking is limited along some roads leading to the river.

Early-season regulations remain the same on the Brule. Anglers may keep just one steelhead, and it must be longer than 26 inches. Anglers may keep five trout and salmon in total, only two of which may be brown trout over 15 inches.

r One regulation change on the Brule is in the works, Piszczek said. A ban on night fishing upstream of U.S. Highway 2 that has been in effect for the past two summers will be rescinded, allowing night fishing again. However, that change will not be made in time for this summer, Piszczek said. The ban on night fishing had gone into effect as the result of an unintended clerical error, he said.

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