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Sucker River Habitat Improvement

For an overview, check out the project description and other information below. Photos are located at the bottom of the page. Please contact us if you're interested in volunteering with this project in any way, we can always use the help!

Project Description:  The Sucker River is an important trout stream between Duluth and Two Harbors, Minnesota.  The project area at river mile 9.5 offers easy access to the public and an angling easement exists on the property and for virtually the entire watershed upstream and for 1.75 miles downstream.  The amount of year-round adult trout cover and habitat on the site is a limiting factor in providing a stable brook trout fishery.  River bends that appear brimming with water in spring may be almost dry in mid summer due to the lack of base flow in most North Shore trout streams.  Lack of overhead cover exposes trout to increased predation when they are most vulnerable.  The project addresses this issue by adding woody cover along banks and rock veining to direct low winter and summer flows to appropriate cover areas.  Eroding banks on the site have been stabilized and non-native reed canary grass, an invasive species, has been replaced with native grasses.  Trees have been harvested on-site and off-site for use as woody cover.  White pine logs with root balls attached have been primarily used. Black ash trees have been used as well. Disturbed areas were replanted with native vegetation. Nearly 1300 feet of river have been addressed by the in-stream habitat component of this project. Deciduous trees were planted in over one mile of the riparian corridor. Focus was on planting areas undereath current black ash stands that will be succeptable to emerald ash borers in the future. Riparian forest diversity was improved by planting eight different tree species including tamarack, white spruce, white pine, white cedar, silver maple, sugar maple, hemlock, and red pine.

Funding: The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, via Minnesota Trout Unlimited, has provided $30,000 for this project. The MN DNR, MN Trout Unlimited, USDA Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Namebini are also providing funding.

Timing: Woody cover, rock veining and other in-stream habitat work was primarily completed August 23-25, 2010.  Tree planting and fencing as well as invasive species removal were completed May-July, 2011.

Planning and Assesment: A forest stewardship plan is currently in implementation on site.  An in-stream and riparian habitat plan provided by Interfluve will allow for monitoring of the success of the habitat improvement features of the project. As a portion of this plan, both trout populations and physical habitat characteristics have been initially assessed will be and monitored long-term. Physical assesment of the river's geomorphological conditions is being conducted by UMD Geology Professor Karen Gran. Cross-sectional studies continue to be conducted to assess a wide variety of parameters in sixteen locations in the habitat improvement section. Funding for this ongiong research has been provided by UMD's Center for Community and Regional Research. Minnesota's DNR Duluth Area Fisheries will be conducting ongoing fish population assesements. These will include surveying the stream in both the section where the habitat improvement is taking place as well as a control section located a substatial distance away from the project site on the Sucker River. Take a look that the Site Plan for additional details.

Construction Partners: This project has been made possible by a myriad of partners. The expertise of heavy equipment operators from Darrel D. Johnson Excavating, Inc, and Mike Zauhar Logging played a large role in this project. Interfluve provided on-site construction supervision that was key to accurate placement of all habitat structures. We look forward to working with them all again in the future.

Looking for the the 2011 tree planting photos? Find them all in an album on our Facebook Page

Looking for the research poster? Find UMD Student Ryan Birkemeier's award winning poster HERE

Major Construction Photos From 2010 - Make sure to check out the time lapse video HERE as well!

Harvesting Woody Debris

Skidding Large Wood

Moving Woody Debris

Moving Large Wood in the River

Positioning a Root Wad

Positioning a Root Wad

Positioning a Root Wad

Moving a Large Log Downriver

Rock Weir 2 Complete

Completed Rock Weir

Log Jam 2 Complete

Completed Log Jam

S-curve area finished

Completed Curve Complex

Construction Discussion

Discussing Rock Placement

Raking the Habitat Project

Raking the Finished Project


Preassesment Work Photos From 2009

Electrofishing the Sucker River

Electrofishing The Sucker River

Brook Trout Headed Back to the Water

Brook Trout Headed Back In

Sucker River Habitat Survey

Sampling the Rate of Flow

MN DNR Staff With Brook Trout

MN DNR Staff with Brook Trout

Surveying The River Substrate

Assessing the River Substrate

Sucker River Slope Survey

Determining River Slope

Electrofishing The Bend

Electrofishing The Sucker River

Checking Sucker River Pool Depth

Checking River Pool Depth

Trout from the Sucker River

Trout From the Sucker River



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