Lake Superior fishing reports

Stream conditions and smelt updates, including steelhead run timing, begin once anglers start fishing in North Shore streams. Reports are posted here every Thursday through Memorial Day.

Lake Superior summer fishing reports are posted every Thursday from Memorial Day through the first full weekend in October.

Sign up below to receive these reports directly via email or text message, visit this page each week to view updates or call the Lake Superior fishing report hotline at 218-302-3293.

Streams and smelt update

Stream conditions

Conducted annually on 17 streams along Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior, the spring angler surveys collect information to supplement data collected in fisheries assessments.

An angler survey, also known as a creel survey, is a type of in-person survey performed by resource managers where anglers are asked questions about their fishing experience such as the duration of the trip; how many fish they caught and harvested; and if they were satisfied with their experience.

Angler surveys are performed to gain insight about recreational angling perceptions, efforts and harvests to inform future decision making. They are a valuable tool for fisheries managers to use in understanding the systems they manage and how the public interacts with them.

The spring angler survey is centered around sportfish caught in the spring in Lake Superior tributaries with a major focus on sustaining the popular rainbow trout sport fishery in Minnesota waters. The Lake Superior spring angler surveys begin when ice clears and anglers begin fishing in streams, which occurs anytime between late-March and early-May.

Fish traps

Adult and juvenile fish traps at the Knife and French rivers are used to monitor the abundance and health of migratory fish in Minnesota waters of Lake Superior, particularly migratory rainbow trout (steelhead). They also monitor Sea lamprey control efforts in Lake Superior.

The adult traps capture adult fish migrating upstream. The juvenile traps capture both adult and juvenile fish migrating downstream from the rivers to the lake. The adult traps capture annual spawning runs of adult steelhead in the spring (ice-out in late-March or early-April through July) and many other adult salmonids (i.e., brook and brown trout, coho, chinook, and pink salmon) that spawn in the fall (September through ice-formation in late-October or early-November).

Adult rainbow trout (steelhead) that return to French River are captured in both the adult trap and a Minnesota DNR seining effort near the mouth of the river. Steelhead captured at French River provide eggs to replenish a captive Lake Superior strain steelhead broodstock at Minnesota DNR hatcheries.

Offspring produced from the captive steelhead broodstock are clipped and stocked back into North Shore streams and are legal to be harvested when they measure at least 16 inches. Check the fishing regulations for seasons and limits.


Many Minnesotans remember the heyday of the smelt in the 1960s and 70s, when Lake Superior’s smelt population peaked and thousands of netters could haul home buckets of fish.

Although still popular among a few avid folks, this spring activity is no longer the big carnival-like event it once was. Smelt numbers have declined significantly from peak abundance in the 1970s because of predation by an increasing lake trout population and the establishment of pacific salmon, interactions with lake herring and the usual decline that is typical after the initial boom of an invading exotic species.

With Lake Superior restored to a more natural state, we are unlikely to experience a resurgence of smelt to the levels that anglers recall from the 1960s and 70s.

There is still a smelt run in most years but it is minor compared to the smelt runs of the past.

More information about smelt is available in a brief smelt fishing FAQ and our smelt web page.

Lake Superior summer fishing

Lake Superior summer fishing report

The Lake Superior summer angler survey has been conducted annually since 1969. The survey provides estimates of angling pressure, harvest and catch rates along Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior.

The survey focuses on lake trout, chinook salmon and coho salmon. The information collected from anglers is vital for monitoring fish resources in Lake Superior and informing management and regulations.

Two creel clerks conduct the summer angler survey from the Memorial Day weekend through the first full weekend in October.

The Lower Shore clerk interviews anglers from Duluth to Two Harbors, while the Upper Shore clerk interviews anglers from Twin Points to Hovland. Clerks follow pre-determined randomized schedules to ensure that their data accurately represents all anglers’ effort and catch on Lake Superior.

Fishing reports are updated every Thursday.

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