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Jarrid Houston column: Spring arrives, sort of, with open-water stream fishing

Lake Superior's North Shore is seeing more boats trolling on warm days.

Jarrid Houston
Jarrid Houston

A lot of changes are about to unfold in our area of the world — both for the weather and the wildlife, and especially fishing.

We finally had a taste of warm sun and melting snow this past weekend. It was pleasant as we conducted some fun fishing adventures in between seminars at the Douglas County Fish and Game League Sports Show. Oh yeah, thanks to all that came out and supported the event. Given the short amount of time we had, we had to make a decision to stay local and fish. However, we kept tabs on all the fun bites that took place in our region. We will get into that in a second, but first we want to remind everyone to make sure they are following the rules set forth by the DNR for both states.

Now is a great time to make sure you have the proper (2023) fishing licenses, that your boat is up to date on registration and that you are familiar with all the fishing rules that govern this new year. I mentioned this throughout the weekend at the sports show, but if you see something or someone suspicious, call them in. Both states have anonymous tip lines to pass on information to conservation officers. People breaking rules are not only unfair to the wildlife, but to us sportsmen and women as well. We can all help our DNR by working as a team and singling out the bad sportsmen in the world.

Send us your big fish photos by email to outdoors@duluthnews.com.
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Durham, 46, of Park Rapids, Minnesota, just wrapped up his 22nd year as a kindergarten teacher in his hometown of Nevis, Minnesota. This is his 32nd year of guiding.
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Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report for the week of May 30, 2023.
Send us your big fish photos by email to outdoors@duluthnews.com.
Event included a catfish excursion on the Red River with volunteer guides from the Red River Catfish Club and a morning shooting clay targets at the Dakota Sporting Clays range west of Grand Forks.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources report for the week of May 22.
Salmon and trout were biting, but a big east wind blew anglers off Lake Superior midweek.

OK, on to the fun fishing report we go.

Lake Superior has seen an increase in anglers taking to the open waters of the North Shore now that some boat landings are free of ice. Be cautious because that can change overnight. Floating ice is common this time of year and will move with wind direction. This goes not only for Lake Superior but also other open waters that are just starting to show opportunity. Areas like Lake Michigan and some regional rivers are just starting to host boats.


Most the Gitch anglers this last week found success trolling shallow near shore spots. Coho salmon were going good during some time slots, but very slow during others. Smaller, longer profiled stick baits have been good. This bite will certainly get more attention in the next few weeks. For the Lake Superior ice anglers, Chequamegon Bay still has ice in some areas. Slush pockets are certainly showing up so be cautious of machine travel. The areas around the Apostle Islands are now heading toward total ice out. Around Ashland, you can still find some fair to good perch, pike and the occasional walleye, whitefish, trout or salmon bites. Best tactic is to continue to fish flashy spoons with an aggressive jigging cadence.

Stream fishing got off to a fun start last weekend. Most years, it feels like the weather is always cold and overcast with precipitation, etc. This year, it was awesome and warm. The only tough part was the deep snow and trekking to hard-to-reach fishing holes.

Checking in with our great friend, colleague and stream fishing hammer and guide, Garett Svir of Slab Seeker Fishing Guide Service, we learned a few things. Garett is no stranger to stream fishing our Lake Superior tributaries as he was born and raised in Two Harbors. He says it was a successful opener on Wisconsin’s Brule River. Ice packs are present on streams so be prepared. The typical spring migration is being halted on account of said ice packs. However, some good fall-run fish are present. Many hens are still holding eggs, meaning we are still waiting for the spawn to occur. Some very colorful browns can be seen and will now make their way back to Lake Superior. A single bead was the best for streams last weekend. The fish tagged showed a distinct preference for a "Death Row NatRoe Flaked Out." Be careful of ice shelves as you navigate.

The St. Louis River and inland lakes have been showing an uptick in good panfish bites as we now have lots of bug larvae forming on soft bottom mud. Most of our successful crappies have been schooling up in small packs of 2-3 fish. Occasionally we are seeing bigger groups, but the bug hatches have them sort of separating themselves from the pack. Best depths have been 6-16 feet of water. We have not been basin chasing deeper fish as we prefer not to mess with any barotrauma — harsh pressure changes kill fish.

Baits of choice continue to be green and pink tungsten jigs tipped with limber scented plastics. Don't be afraid to run unorthodox color mix-ups as sometimes that can be the difference maker. The sunfish bite has been more on the meat side. So, if you're after "gills," make sure to have a steady supply of waxies and/or spikes.

Lastly, we are starting to see some dynamite action with some panfish bites. Please, please respect these fish and how important they are for the upcoming spring/spawn season. All the best hooksets, angling nation.

Jarrid Houston of South Range is a fishing guide ( houstonsguideservice.com ) on Minnesota and Wisconsin inland waters, the St. Louis River and, in winter, on Lake Superior.
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