Fall Fishing on the North Shore

I always wonder what folks are fishing for when I drive the North Shore in the fall. One of these days I will need to learn which rivers have fish and how to fish them. I know you can catch some big Northern Pike on Saganaga in the fall and the lake trout are sometimes cooperative but it can get pretty cold out on the lake. Fishing from shore on a river? Any excuse to extend the fishing season…

DNR Question of the week

Q: What species of fish run into North Shore streams during the fall?

A: The Minnesota waters of Lake Superior provide fall spawning runs of pink salmon, coaster brook trout, coho salmon, chinook salmon and the occasional brown trout. These runs are generally smaller and less consistent than other areas in Lake Superior. That’s because North Shore streams have limited spawning habitat available for migratory fish due to steep waterfalls that act as natural barriers to fish passage. Most fall spawning fish caught in Minnesota are the result of limited reproduction below natural barriers, fish migrating to the lake from above those barriers, and fish originating from other states.

Pink salmon are the most abundant species observed in the fall spawning run. In September, they begin migration and seek spawning areas in Lake Superior tributaries. Depending on the year, decent numbers of “humpbacks,” as pink salmon are often called, can be found congregating near river mouths.

In October, native coaster brook trout will migrate to spawn in tributaries and shoal areas of Lake Superior. Although few coho and chinook salmon reproduce successfully on Minnesota’s North Shore, limited runs of these species also enter tributaries in October. Lake-run brown trout are rare, but can be found in limited numbers (typically in large tributaries) on the lower shore throughout the fall. Additionally, a small number of steelhead rainbow trout make their migration during fall in preparation to spawn the following spring. The timing and frequency of fall runs on the North Shore depends on individual river conditions, including water temperature and fall rains.

Nick Peterson, DNR migratory fish specialist

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