One of Lake Superior’s coldest years could actually be good news for the ecosystem

Thermometer in Lake Superior
Thermometer in Lake Superior(KBJR/CBS3 Duluth)
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 5:22 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DULUTH, MN -- Lake Superior is unusually cold for this time of year, and while it might be bad news for beachgoers, the cold water has its benefits too.

According to our meteorologists, the average surface temperature on Lake Superior is the coldest it’s been at this point of the year since 1997.

Great Lakes Temperature Map
Great Lakes Temperature Map(KBJR/CBS3 Duluth)

“This year we’re definitely seeing colder temperatures,” said Parker Bambenek, Captain of the Superior Pursuits Charter Fishing tours.

Charter captains like Bambenek say the colder water changes the depth they have to fish at.

“It’s making it a little more challenging right now just because we’re in that transition period where the fish are [either] comfortable in the top or they’re comfortable 100 feet down. You can catch fish anywhere in the water column,” he said.

According to Bambenek, there are typically two peak seasons for fishing on the lake.

The first comes in late spring or early summer when fish gather near the surface of the water.

The second season typically comes in July, August, and September, when the water has warmed up enough for fish to gather at the bottom of the lake.

When the fish are spread out in the time between, lines need to be spread out much deeper.

“This happens every year, but usually it’s in June. So we’re fishing like we’re fishing in June and right now it’s July,” he said.

The cold water has put their season a few weeks behind schedule, but they’re anticipating it’ll be better by August.

Still, the Minnesota DNR says the cold water provides a good chance for native species to bounce back.

“These cold-water years might not be good for swimming or hanging out near the shore, but they are definitely good for the ecosystem in general,” said Cory Goldsworthy, the Lake Superior Area Fishery Supervisor with the DNR.

Goldsworthy explains that cold water discourages the spawning of invasive species.

“In these colder years, we’d like to see those [invasive] populations kind of get knocked back. We don’t want to see consecutive years of really warm water and see those invasive species populations start to establish themselves,” he said.

Unlike it does with invasive species the cold water sets native fish populations up to thrive.

“If they can make it to age one, we know they’ll make it to spawning size and then that benefits things like our commercial fishery here in Minnesota. Seeing these ice cover events and colder water temperatures in relation to native species, I’m excited to see it,” said Goldsworthy.

Copyright 2022 CBS3 Duluth. All rights reserved.