The Longnose Sucker ranks up there as one of my favorite fish. Even before I found out about Roughfish.com, 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!!
Cool, they were still around! And not more than a few minutes later, Mitch got his lifer Longnose Sucker!
That made the trip! Absolutely cool looking fish. Pics taken and fish released.
Then Tony tormented us with his skills...you 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!
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!
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!!
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!
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.
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!