'Can't keep me away' from steelhead openerFull parking lots, warm temperatures, a large steelhead catch, and a lot of memories was the theme of the day Saturday during the Brule River steelhead opener.
By: By John Kolstad , Superior Telegram
BRULE– Full parking lots, warm temperatures, a large steelhead catch, and a lot of memories was the theme of the day Saturday during the Brule River steelhead opener. It’s one of those truly special fishing events that brings people from all over the Midwest in hopes of landing one of the elusive migratory rainbow trout, a.k.a. “steelhead.”
An adult steelhead migrates up the tributaries of Lake Superior and other great lakes in the hopes of spawning in the shallow gravel beds of their native river. According to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources biologist Dennis Pratt, nearly 8,000 fish ascended the Brule this past fall and spent the winter in the river in preparation for the spring spawn. Most of Saturday’s catch was from the group that wintered in the river. However, some fresh fish were also caught, a by-product of the early spring thaw which opened up the Brule unusually early this year.
Most people I talked with were anxious just to get out, whether or not they caught fish. In an unusual season, though, the fish catch was anything but typical. The number of fish caught was way up and so were the number of fisherman; most likely due to the warm temperatures and lack of snow in the woods.
Mark Brewer of Shoreview, Minn., has been making the annual opening day trip for the last 20-plus years. Before wetting a line, Brewer tried locating a fishing spot in six different locations and counted nearly 100 cars in the over flowing parking lots. Brewer and his party decided a traditional stop for breakfast was in order before they continued their pursuit of a fishing hole. After a good meal in the belly, Brewer’s party mustered the gumption to walk deeper into the woods and finally settled in an area near McNeil’s Landing. As of 11:50 a.m., Brewer still hadn’t touched a fish but was optimistic for what the day held.
Ron DeGraef of Superior was out around 6 a.m. DeGraef, just two weeks after a double heart bypass surgery, was eager to hit the river after a long hard winter. DeGraef told his cardiologist, “Let’s get this done, I have the Brule opener in about two weeks and you can’t keep me away from it.”
After I fished alongside DeGraef for about an hour, I moved a little further upstream and found myself in the same hole I fished this past Nov. 15. It’s one of my favorite holes and even more so now. On that last cold day of the season, it’s where my son, who was 11 years old at the time, landed his very first steelhead on only his third time out. That place on the Brule will have that memory forever etched in my soul. Once again, at about 1:20 pm, the hole proved why it’s one of my favorite after it produced a nice silver 20” fish on the end of my line.
Shortly thereafter, I met a couple of young men from Iron River, John Darwin, 18 and his buddy Josh Teigen, 17. The pair got into fish early and often throughout the day. By the time we connected in mid-afternoon, they had already landed five fish.