• Steelheaders / Lake Huron Club Beat Mother Nature and the Steelhead

    As you've probably heard we've been experiencing record cold weather, record wet weather and record runs of steelhead on the Saugeen River this spring. The old boys on the river have been facing the elements at their own pace and getting the job done

    As I said the rains and cold have been one for the record book. Here's the Maple Hill dam and what it looked like for the last couple of weeks. Down stream at Denny's the sight is even more amazing. Floods, floods and more floods, but the fish keep coming on.

    But even with the cold the steelhead have been coming on strong for weeks. The fish staged below the dam and off the river-mouth by the thousands, but the urge to get to the spawning beds overcame even the coldest and highest of water and the run kicked into gear.

    This is the new fish-way the Steelheaders built at Maple Hill under flood conditions. This fish-way, another across the river and the Walkerton fish-way have been passing first winter steelhead for the last month and now are jammed with spring fish.

    At Denny's we close the passage only twice a day for less than an hour at a time to trap. We average between 400 and 500 fish captured at each lift. For the other 22 hours the big adults are running non-stop. Trust me it's not an easy task climbing into the hole twice a day to struggle with up to a thousand fish. Every one of those fish is either put in the tanker or sampled and released upstream.

    These fish average out at between 6-10 pounds , but we have plenty of 10-15 pounders. The biggest to date this year is nudging 18 pounds.

    We generally utilize 3 or 4 transport tankers for the one hour ride up to the Beatty, but are using two while the remaining tankers are getting their spring overhaul. One tanker carrys 50 adults and the second contains 40 big ones. Due to wet conditions we have to hand haul the adults down to the river which is a task in itself.

    We make two trips a day for a total of 180 adults a day. Trust me this is a lot of work for us geriatric wonders. Jimmy on the tanker had a brain aneurysm about a year ago and Bill carrying the fish thought he was going to enjoy his retirement and just drink beer and fish.

    The main Saugeen may be muddy as hell, but the Beatty Saugeen trib is clear and drinkable. The Beatty is approximately 70 miles by water from the river-mouth and Lake Huron. We stock the fish at just upstream of the junction of the Beatty Saugeen and South Saugeen. From where we stock them, the fish have another 40 miles of prime, cold, clear spawning water.

    Kirk Lund one of our most dependable long time members has been part of these tanker expeditions for years. When I need someone and the going is tuff I know I can always count on him.

    Now have a close look at the rocks in this stretch of river. This is a major flood period across Ontario, streams are muddy everywhere, but never in the Beatty. Art Paterson is another long timer that can always be depended on.

    This really is what it is all about for this part of our spring program. We move a thousand fish like this every spring up into lower Beatty and let them do their thing in the best spawning water found anywhere in the province. In the first 2 1/2 days we moved 450 fish. The winds and rain kicked are butts for a few days, but I know I can always count on the geriatric groupies. As a matter of fact they called today and said they are back on the job and will be finished in a day or two. We stock the best wild genetics, in the best water, for the best spawning and imprinting. We trailer thousands of miles a year in both spring and fall but it's paying off big time.

    These same two clubs also collect 100,000 wild eggs for our own hatchery program, 100,000 eggs for the Bruce Peninsula Sportsmens hatchery and an additional 75,000 eggs that we send to the Chatsworth hatchery for a joint program being carried out between the MNR. It's the first time in decades that a new strain (Chambers Creek) has gone into a provincial hatchery.

    Then next week we finish off our spring workload by stocking out 65,000 of the finest 8 inch fingerling steelhead smolt into the Saugeen way upstream 50 miles again for perfect imprinting at Walkerton.

    What can I say, but.....Old Boys Rule!!

    And Rule!!

    And Rule!!

    And have created the best damn steelhead fishery I've ever seen in my life for the younger crowd. And I mean from Alaska to California. Think real hard about the number of anglers that actually fish below Denny's Dam alone each spring, fall and winter. Think about the awesome numbers of fish bursting through that Denny's fish-way ever spring and autumn 24 hours a day. Like I've said I've never seen anything like it anywhere else on the continent. A great accomplishment by a few old boys and a few youngsters as well that belong to the Ontario Steelheaders and the Lake Huron Fishing Club.

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