DULUTH — The image was one that could make an angler drool — nearly 400 rainbow trout flopping and splashing in the cold spring waters of the French River. Handsome specimens all, their bronze flanks were speckled with dark spots and a crimson wash running the length of each fish.
Of course, it was not a natural scenario.
The 364 mature Kamloops rainbow trout — along with 30 wild steelhead — were corralled in a seine net tended by several Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries employees Monday morning at the river northeast of Duluth.
This was the first of several seinings planned on the French this spring to collect eggs from these heavy-bodied Kamloops rainbows to rear more of them for stocking next year.
Some of these rainbows had been in the river most of the winter, biding their time. Others had entered the river this spring from Lake Superior. They come into the river to spawn, but a dam just upstream prevents the fish from moving farther up the French.
Unlike steelhead, Lake Superior’s other variety of rainbow trout that reproduce and sustain themselves with only limited stocking, the Kamloops population is almost entirely dependent upon stocking.
The first eggs for next year’s batch of Kamloops rainbows will come from the adult females that were swimming inside the seine net on Monday morning. A seine net gently herds the fish together until they’re confined in a circle about 15 feet in diameter. DNR employees used dip nets to scoop rainbows out of the seine net and load them into the waiting bucket of a small front-end loader. The loader hauled the fish up the hill to the French River fisheries office, where eggs would be stripped from the fish and fertilized.
DNR fisheries workers will seine this pool several more times this spring and collect eggs from adult rainbows. Later, the young fish that emerge from eggs will be transferred to a DNR hatchery.
Once eggs were collected from the adult Kamloops rainbows captured on Monday, those adult rainbows were returned to Lake Superior and anglers will have another shot at them. Kamloops rainbow trout provide a unique fishery for anglers who fish from shore along Lake Superior, mainly from the Lester River to the French River.
After being raised at the Spire Valley Hatchery near Remer, the yearling Kamloops rainbows will be stocked in either the Lester River or the French River.
The fish then typically spend three or four more years in Lake Superior before returning to the French or other rivers. Little successful spawning occurs naturally among Kamloops rainbows on the North Shore, although results of a genetic study released last month indicate some Kamloops spawning does occur.