Lake Superior Kamloops Rainbow Trout:

Classification:

Oncorhynchus mykiss kamloops-Small Lake Phenotype

Average: 24-26 inches & 5-7lbs. at spawning time in Minnesota waters

Identification: Stocky silvery body with a dull steel-blue to olive-green back. There is also heavy black spotting throughout the head, back, sides, adipose fin & tail. Iridescent pink to reddish band extends from the head to the tail along the lateral line. White mouth & gums with well-developed teeth on the upper jaw & back of the tongue. Anal fin has 10-12 rays. Adipose fin is clipped in MN waters

Forage Preference:
Predominantly insectivorous in its native range, but also piscivorous in Minnesota waters. Aquatic insects such as: Dragonflies, Damselflies, Caddis, Sedge & Rail Flies were predominating in Minnesota DNR summer diet studies along with lesser abundances of Chironomids (various Non-biting mosquito like flies). Fish comprise a minor portion of the diet.

Common Names: Looper

Length: Up to 30 inches
Weight: Up to 9 pounds

History: According to recent research, the Kamloops trout is more closely related to the rainbows & steelhead of California rather than those on British Columbia's coast. It is now believed that these trout migrated to the Interior Region during glacial recession around 12,000 years ago.  At that time, the Kamloops-Shuswap-Nicola region was covered by a vast lake, which drained south to the Columbia River. It is believed the California rainbows migrated north via the Columbia, then settled in lakes across the Interior as the glacial melt water receded. 

As the glacial bodies of water drained, separating & creating the present-day lakes of the region, different rainbow trout phenotypes -or Life-Form-Histories- evolved & developed as a result of the varied & unique environmental influences present. However, genetic analyses show that Kamloops currently stocked in Minnesota waters do not represent the pure form of Kamloops trout. They are as such referred to as a, "Hatchery Strain."

Kamloops History in Minnesota Waters: Starting in the 1970’s, experimental stocking of rainbow trout yearlings began in Minnesota as an attempt to augment wild steelhead stocks. In 1972 & 1973, three domestic strains of rainbow trout: Donaldson, Madison, & Kamloops, were stocked in Lake Superior to evaluate their respective performances. Study results indicated that the Kamloops strain was best suited for a put-grow-&-take fishery that could augment the growing harvest from the naturalized steelhead fishery.

In 1976, Minnesota began a Kamloops stocking program with the goal of establishing a put-grow-&-take migratory rainbow trout fishery. This program has since evolved, & with the advent of no-harvest regulations on wild steelhead under the Rainbow Trout Management Plan, Kamloops are the only rainbow strain that can be legally kept in the Minnesota waters & tributaries of Lake Superior.

Stocking: Kamloops are currently stocked only in Lower North Shore tributaries. Confining stocking to the lower North Shore mitigates straying with the purpose of limiting genetic introgression of Kamloops genes into wild steelhead stocks (cross-breeding). Kamloops-Steelhead crosses display a number of undesirable traits that limit their ability to survive starting right at the egg stage. Straying after stocking however was noted during the initial test period & is an area of concern. Tagged Kamloops were recovered near Madeline Island in Wisconsin in 1974 & in the Au Sable River in Michigan in 1976. Minnesota creel censuses have also documented Kamloops more recently from tributaries as far north as Hovland.

Kamloops are reared at the French River Hatchery & 92,500 yearlings are stocked annually. Adult Kamloops returning to the French River trap are used as the egg source for the hatchery-reared fish.
During the initial evaluation period, Kamloops were stocked in Trout Lake in Cook County & in the French River Estuary. Later stockings included Chester Creek, but since the adoption of the Lake Superior Management Plan, Kamloops stocking occurs in the following tributaries:

French River- 35,000 yearlings annually (Summer)
Lester River- 32,500 yearlings annually (Spring)
Talmadge Creek- 25,000 yearlings annually (Summer)

Spawning: Kamloops in Minnesota waters generally return to the tributaries to spawn after 3 summers in the lake with the greatest numbers of adult fish returning at approximately age 5. Kamloops generally stage just offshore throughout the winter months, then tend to enter the rivers just after ice-out, typically in early April. Kamloops spawn in lower stream reaches than steelhead & at slightly different temperatures. These traits combine to provide an earlier spring fishery than for steelhead.

Run activities generally peak in mid-April, with spawning occurring at water temperatures in the upper 30's to mid-40's. Females scoop out a shallow depression in suitable gravel called a Redd, then deposit eggs which are fertilized by the male. After spawning, Kamloops return to the lake although it is not known precisely when this occurs. Steelhead have been documented emigrating through the Knife River trap up to 60 days after initial capture.

Fishing for Kamloops:   Kamloops are most often caught from the Gooseberry River South to the Duluth area tributaries. With an occasional stray caught father up the shore. These beefy Rainbows can be caught all year long. On any given pleasant winter day one can usually spot several hearty looper anglers scattered along the North Shore with a line in the big lake. Most winter lake anglers float small jigs tipped with waxies, worms or spawn. The fly anglers are usually dead drifting spring’s wigglers, Superior X patterns, prince nymphs,egg flies, or some other sort of nymph pattern.

Though the Kamloops Rainbow trout generally do not make the sometimes long distant runs up stream as does the Steelhead. Kamloops typically only travel to the first difficult barrier; often spawning within viewing distance of Lake Superior. As you will find, loopers generally do not have the fighting strength or stamina of a steelhead.

To target these tasty rainbow trout, one can increase hooking odds by focusing on the rivers in the Duluth / Two Harbors areas. Look at rivers with good stocking statistics for starters; this will help give you an edge. We suggest that you check the detailed information on www.minnesotasteelheader.com regarding current stocking statistics. Remember too that these fish look very similar to steelhead. We strongly urge you to study the fin clips as unclipped Rainbow trout are to be released. Info on the clips can also be found on the above website and by checking with the MN DNR.

Artical by: Minnesota Steelheader Senior Field Staffer - NMF 

Fishing can be tough during the winter but there are fish to be had. You will find though that the majority of Kamloops are targeted during the spring run. These rainbow trout run with the steelhead rainbow trout and are caught using the same gear and flies. Both strains of Rainbow trout share the same pools, runs and eddies.

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