Swimming upstream – and savoring the effort
As truckers and tourists zipped along the Lake Superior coast on Highway 61, I sat underneath the bridge of the Devil Track River, watching the salmon run, marveling at their tenacity to swim upstream, spawn and die.
I also was frustrated because despite my best attempts that morning, and the afternoon before, I couldn’t hook a single fish. I’d accidentally foul-hooked two, even reeling one in, but a foul-hook is not a legal catch and after removing the single hook (no trebles allowed) I let it return to its life-ending efforts.
My 13-year old son came back downstream to check on how I was doing and reported that he’d caught his limit. Four pink salmon and one Coho.
“Let me take a picture of you with that meat pile,” I told him.
“I already cleaned them,” he said, holding up the loaded grocery store bag. “Let’s go and get some ice.”
In his first weekend fall fishing Lake Superior tributaries along Minnesota’s fabled north shore, he’d gone from novice to expert before my very eyes. Meanwhile, I kneeled over the flowing water wondering where the time had gone—and I didn’t mean the hours spent beside that stream.
Being out-fished by your progeny is a good problem to have, if you can get it. I highly recommend it.
The pink salmon run on the world’s greatest lake is likely waning, but there’s plenty of remaining open water fishing up there and around the rest of the state.
I spent my college years at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and I ventured up the shore several times in search of the fall salmon run. I never had much luck then, just as now, so I take virtually zero credit for my son’s success.
From Duluth to Grand Portage, any stream with a quality flow into Lake Superior is sure to hold the various breeds of salmon. Throngs of people were venturing up and down the shore. Some attending an art festival in Grand Marais, most visiting waterfalls, overlooks, and hiking trails while taking in the fall colors. Only a small percentage were also carrying fishing poles.
The further up the shore you go, the fewer anglers you are likely to encounter. That said, in a Saturday afternoon of fishing, we encountered dozens of anglers.
Two of them were kind enough to chat and provide us with some advice. Camaraderie among anglers still exists along the rocky banks of a river and there was plenty of shared respect between all those crowds jockeying for the best waters.
In the end, it’s still a game of skill plus luck. My son definitely had both going for him that weekend. At the same time, I felt like I did pretty good too, even without a fish in my creel.