Up North: Anglers Notice Fewer Trout at French River

Alicia Tipcke
Updated: April 16, 2020 04:08 PM

Trout and smelting season is Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some anglers took advantage of the clear weather last weekend to test the waters north of Duluth. 


Across the street from the French River Hatchery a quiet group of anglers dotted the Lake Superior shoreline. The hatchery has been closed since 2017 but still rears kamloops, a local variety of rainbow trout similar to steelheads.

This season, even before the stocking program was halted due to the coronavirus, Duluth angler Ross Pearson said numbers were low.

"For the entire season I've only got about a dozen fish. In years past I might have closer to 100 by now, so the fishery has declined," said Pearson. "The year classes are disappearing because they no longer have the kamloops stocking program going," he added about the French River Hatchery.

To stock lakes the DNR traps wild fish, takes their eggs and fertilizes them to be released. The process is done to help create a naturally reproducing rainbow trout population. 

"They've been planted at the Lester River as well so you may have some fish that actually got printed to the river and would return there to spawn," commented Pearson.

With his reel in bobbing in the French River, Pearson remained patient. The avid angler was armed with a tool of his own design, "I'm a custom rod builder so I use rods that I have built. Several of these people here have rods that I have built," he said about nearby anglers. 

On the drive back to Duluth anglers set off in boats to test the waters at McQuade Harbor.

"The wind is the only kind of tricky thing, getting wind burnt on the face, but I'd say it's a pretty good day today," said Laura Atwater of Nisswa, Minnesota while trout fishing with her dad Chris Atwater.

"The lake trout we're catching them on jigs out in about 120 feet of water," added Chris Atwater of Williams, Minnesota.

The Minnesota DNR recommends not traveling for trout, or smelting season. However, lakes and docks are still open. The DNR recommends anglers stand at least six feet apart and stay within family units when outside.


Alicia Tipcke

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