The Steelhead is the common name for Rainbow Trout that migrate to spend their juvenile lives in saltwater. Like Salmon, they return to their original hatching ground to spawn. Similar to Atlantic Salmon, but unlike their Pacific salmonid kin, steelhead breed many times, each time separated by months and make several spawning trips between fresh and saltwater. The steelhead smolts (immature or young fish) remain in the river for about a year before heading to sea, whereas salmon typically return to the seas as smolts.
Different steelhead populations migrate upriver at different times of the year. “Summer-run steelhead” migrate between May and October, before their reproductive organs are fully mature. Steelhead mature in freshwater before spawning in the spring. Most Columbia river steelhead are “summer-run”. “Winter-run steelhead” mature fully in the ocean before migrating, between November and April, and spawn shortly after returning. The maximum recorded lifespan for a Steelhead (Rainbow Trout) is 11 years.
Steelhead Fishing Locations
Steelhead can be found throughout North America. Oregon Coast rivers, Washington rivers, California rivers, Western Canada rivers and Alaska rivers have the highest numbers of Steelhead. Inland rivers also have native and planted steelhead populations in somewhat smaller numbers. Most rivers in this area have two steelhead runs, the “winter run” and the “summer run”. Summer run steelhead are usually more aggressive due to the water temperatures the live and feed in. Steelhead migrate from the salt water where they spend their juvenile lives back to the rivers they were born in to spawn.
Steelhead Fishing Seasons
Steelhead Fishing can usually be classified into two main seasons, “summer run” and “winter run”. Winter run steelhead usually run through the months of late October through mid February, depending on the location. Summer run steelhead can run as early as mid March-early April through early September also depending on location. The middle of the run is usually the hot time with the largest numbers of fish coming in in huge spurts. A steelhead fishing guide or steelhead fishing charter service can help put you on the fish at the right times.
Steelhead Flavor & Cooking
Steelhead meat is pink like that of salmon, and is more flavorful than the light-colored meat of rainbow trout. Usually caught in cool clear water steelhead is commonly regarded as excellent table fare. There are many ways to prepare your catch after a good day of steelhead fishing. Grilling is one of the most common methods used to prepare a steelhead. An experienced steelhead fishing charter service or steelhead fishing guide can usually offer advice on how to best cook your catch. They will usually have a “secret recipe” they might be willing to share with you as well.
Steelhead fishing has become a favorite pastime over the years for hundreds of thousands of anglers. There are steelhead fishing clubs and associations around the world that can help the novice angle become a seasoned veteran.