Besides casting into open water for cohos, anglers also fish them through the ice. But the only relatively reliable ice as of Thursday was within the protecting arms of McQuade Small Craft Harbor. On Thursday morning, two fishing shelters were on the ice there, and Brady Jentoft, 36, of Duluth was in one of them. He was sitting atop 6 inches of ice, he said. He hadn't caught a fish yet, but he had done well earlier this winter.
"I've got maybe eight all year -- nothing crazy," Jentoft said from inside his cozy one-person shelter. "The coho fishing has been earlier than usual this year."
He was using waxworms for bait.
"I got two (cohos) and a 'looper (Kamloops rainbow trout) on Tuesday," he said.
Chasing cohos and Kamloops rainbows has been a challenging proposition at times in recent weeks. Skim ice forms some days on Lake Superior and often is pushed ashore by the wind, preventing anglers from having easy access to the shore. Like Hedberg, anglers scout up and down the shore, hoping to find access to fishable water.
While Kamloops rainbow trout, a North Shore staple for shorecasters, are a stocked species, coho salmon are all wild. They were last stocked in Minnesota waters in 1974 and last stocked anywhere on Lake Superior (by the state of Michigan) in 2006, said Cory Goldsworthy, Lake Superior area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at French River.
The cohos that North Shore anglers have been catching are likely from spawning that occurs in Michigan, Ontario or Wisconsin streams, Goldsworthy said. Some years, the cohos tend to run smaller, some years larger. This year's variety seem to be on the small side, Pearson said.
"Dinky," he said. "Fifteens (15-inchers), and if you're lucky, you might get a 16."
In some years, cohos from 17 to 20 inches are plentiful.