The True Treasures of Superior

The Longnose Sucker ranks up there as one of my favorite fish.  Even before I found out about, I had found the longnose while steelhead fishing and always enjoyed catching them.  I have been wanting to update my lifelist pic, but the past few springs have been tough to find some time to get north for them, at least at the time of year they normally run; around late April.


This year was the year though.  With my bum arm (severe case of tennis elbow), a weekend of steelhead fishing - my normal spring time trip - was not going to happen.  So I planned a late April day-trip up to North Shore of Minnesota and/or the south shore of Wisconsin.  I was going to go where they were running.  Based on reports, I knew they had started in the south shore rivers the first part of April, and more recently in the lower rivers of the North Shore.  But with this odd spring, where temps really have not risen in 3 weeks, maybe the run would be extended?


The weekend was approaching and MJohnson was signed up for the trip.  Plans changed and I scored a family-free Saturday too, so now we had the potential for an over night!  Knowing TonyS was up there and had some killer night time tactics for pout and sturg, plans were made to spend the dark hours with lines in the Great Lake!  TylerW and a buddy of his were going to join us late night Saturday.


Saturday 8AM Mitch and I were off.  First stop was some of the lower rivers north of Duluth.  Hopes were to spot some suckers still hanging around in the pools, but those were quickly given up.  With no evidence of a sucker run some essential supplies were purchased at some of Duluth's finest establishments - tackle at Marine General and some growlers from Fitzgers - and we were set for a late night of burbot fishing!!


But first, it was off to the south shore.  A few weeks prior Tony was over pouring some lead up and we were discussing the Longnose Suckers.  I pointed to a spot on the map where I've run into them on the river a number of times.  He agreed, as he had just got his lifer near there that week.  Sounded like a good spot to start at.


In addition to chasing the longnose, the newly discovered population of Round Whitefish and tactics by Tony were not to be ignored.  Being Wisconsin (multiple lines), some lines were devoted to round whitefish type waters, thought to be slower water, that void of current.  While other lines were tossed out for suckers; slight current, deep water areas.  Minutes into the trip I hooked a small fish in the "frogwater"...can it be!?!  Nope, white sucker.  Dang, one could hope!  We (Mitch, Tony and myself) fished for a bit catching white suckers and shortheads, then moved down river to a pool just above the riffles I pointed out on the map.  



More shorts and whites and then I scored a target fish, a Longnose!!  


longnose sucker

Cool, they were still around!   And not more than a few minutes later, Mitch got his lifer Longnose Sucker! 

Longnose Sucker

That made the trip!  Absolutely cool looking fish. Pics taken and fish released. 


Then Tony tormented us with his guessed it, round whitefish But he wasn't fishing the frogwater he said they were being caught in...he was fishing the main pool.  It was a deep, flowing run.  There weren't suppose to be any round whitefish there!  Cool to see in person and only made us each want one more than before!    

round whitefish


We continued fishing. Tony wanted to add a second longnose to his lifelist total, so he moved into the bottom of the pool.  Not one, but 2 longnose not 5 minutes later!  Nice!  

longnose sucker

We got another half dozen longnose in the next 30 minutes. Then Tony almost ended up in the river...he got ANOTHER round whitefish!!  His bait was just yards from Mitch's or mine!! And again, in the flowing water.  We finished up the daylight with some more redhorse and suckers, catching just over a dozen longnose between us. Oh, and I hooked and got a round whitefish to the surface. I reached for the net but it popped off.  DANG!!  


Overall it was a great day!!  The evening's activities will be covered in Part II.


Sunday's plan was the same as Saturday afternoon - hit the Lake Superior trib once again. Tyler and Thomas had joined and both wanted to add Longnose.  We went back to Saturday's successful spot.  Shorts and whites started us out, then Tony connected with a longnose, then Thomas.  Over a couple hours we only got the two longnose. Tyler got a couple brute white suckers, but wasn't connecting with the longnose.  We moved to some different locations.  We spent more time looking for ideal longose water than we did fishing.  But for some reason nothing was looking good.  We picked up quickly and drove to another spot; one that I consider one of my favorite spots on the river.  We had an hour to fish and I thought it might be a good spot for longnose and round whitefish.  I quickly set up in a bend where I have caught multiple steelhead from. But I have never fished it with bait stationary on the bottom.  Not more than 2 minutes after setting my rod down tap-tap-tap went the tip. Grabbed it - fish on.  Not a sucker or redhorse...mooneye type fight...wait...round whitefish!!!  Short battle and Tony scooped it up in the next.  Cool!!  And even better, while Tony was snapping some pics, Mitch hooks a fish and hauls it to shore...another round whitefish!  Two lifers for him this trip!!!  We fished another 20 minutes and continued to add more whites, shortheads and some trout.  It was a fantastic day!






We learned a lot about the round whitefish.  We learned that round whitefish can be found in in slack, current-less water, but can also be found in faster, deep water runs.  The biggest factor - bait can't be moving.  I've fished the spots we caught them hundreds of times with yarn flies.  A buddy that fishes steelhead religiously has fished it 10X times than me, and he's never got one. I suppose there is the chance that they hit and we don't get them in because we are using heavier tackle and pull the hook out of their mouth before we see them.  We do tend to get a lot of par (yearling steelhead) that hit and get off quickly.  But you'd think we'd land one at least once...So I am sticking with the stationary bait theory.


Examining the stomach contents was pretty cool.  Lots of caddis fly nymphs, some stonefly nymphs and scuds.  I estimated 40-50 bugs in the stomach...seems like these guys are eating like crazy!!  


round whitefish double

Mitch and I left Tyler, Tony and Thomas.  They continued to fish, racking up whitesuckers and shothead like crazy, but the longnose never appreared. 


Our itinerary had us stopping at one more WI River, the Namakegon. I've never fished it during the spring and Mitch was looking for a lifelist Greater.  I'll keep it short and simple...we had about an hour to fish two spots.  At the first, Mitch landed the first fish quickly...his lifer Greater!!  Talk about a perfect stop!  

Greater Redhorse


greater redhorse

Shortheads covered the river bottom, so we moved on, looking for some big rivers.  The next spot continued the action - nonstop.  Goldens were thick here!!  A few landed, then I tagged into a nice a River Red.  Some pics and it was released.  

River Redhorse

I noted we just needed a silver to complete a "collective redhorse super slam"...and moments later, silver landed.  We both ended up with the standard 3, and a river for me, greater for Mitch. All in about 45 minutes of rods in the water!  It was AWESOME and I wish it could have continued, but the wives were calling...


It did end a fantastic weekend though.  A big thanks thanks to Tony for hosting us, both on the water and on his apartment's floor!

Species List: 
Redhorse, Golden
Redhorse, Greater
Redhorse, River
Redhorse, Shorthead
Redhorse, Silver
Sucker, Longnose
Sucker, White
Whitefish, Round


Jknuth's picture


Awesome guys!! 

andy's picture

Wow, that is a very unique angling trip.  Kudos on the lifelist additions, and some all-around great Roughfishing!

TonyS's picture

Oh there is more coming... Steelhead (silver carp trout) and Brown trout (german carp trout)  were caught too - I think we even photographed them.  And the Poutin'


Reekfish's picture

Holy buckets! What a great trip- congrats on the lifers! All of the fish are stunning in their own way- the drastic color change of the longnoses, the unique head shape and darkly-outlined scales of the round whitefish, the beautiful bold fins of the greater and the all-around primeness of the river!


ALL 4 of those fish are at the tip-top of my wish list! I can't wait to catch some of my own!

badfish's picture

Awesome fish!  I've been meaning to make that trip for the last couple weeks.  I can't even remember the last time I caught a lifer. 

Perfectly executed...simply perfect! Congrats on your lifers!

Mike B's picture

Excellent photo and report. What did you think of the round whitefish as tablefare? not as good as lake whitefish I find. too soft.

mike b

TonyS's picture

So I did some digging around this morning because in the previous 3-4 trips only one Shorthead had been caught (Corey's).  There is zero documentation (that I can find) on Shortheads in this river.  Surveys of it predominantly show Trout and Salmon, White Suckers, one Round Whitefish, and various minnows.  There were two other interesting bits - a bunch of Walleyes and a single American Eel!  Anyway, I'm guessing these Shortheads are Lake Superior resident fish and are only running the river to spawn - otherwise I find it hard to believe that there would not even be a single data point.  Pretty cool to hit a lake run of Shortheads!

Hengelaar's picture

What an amazing adventure. So many cool expedition reports lately!

Congrats to Mr. Mitch on the great lifers. Man, those Longnose Suckers are coooooool looking fish.

Great photos too.


Everything about this was just a joy (apart from the fact that I wasn't there!).

Fishn sure is neat

TonyS's picture

A couple of Burbot show up in the surveys too - no surprise.  The Walleyes were surveyed in the heat of summer - most likely lake run fish moving in to clean house on easy pickins in the river.


I still can't get over the fact that the survey had an American Eel in it - crazy.

AvidFly's picture

Badfish-  We thought of you bankside.  We were tossing around names of those still looking for a longnose. With as good as the action was I thought maybe it would be worth a trip this week.  Then Sunday came and the longnose went.  I think the same thing happened last year when you chased them, didn't it?


Mike- Didn't eat them yet.  Saving them to smoke.  I'm not normally a fish keeper, but these guys took a beating trying to get pics (floppiest fish I have ever seen!), so I was concern about releasing them, plus I've heard they are good smoked. 

Mike B's picture

smoking sounds like a great idea.

mike b

badfish's picture

Yeah Avid, last year I went up there probably a day too late.  Didn't catch any suckers at all.  This last week I was tempted to call into work but figured they would've been done by now but obviously they weren't.   It's going to be another long year to wait till next spring. 

AvidFly's picture

Tony was a little snap happy with taking pics, but it was well worth it!  


Deftik's picture

Nice guys love the variety!

Your momma fishes for lifers with Eagle Claws.
Cast_and_Blast's picture

Wow.  Sounds like an awesome outing.

Eli's picture

Wicked adventure.

Those round whitefish look made to attack a mepps 00 spinner.




Bubbajoe's picture

Awesome report!

Awesome pics!

and most of all awesome fish!

Congrats on all the lifers and your successes boys!