Saltwater Fish - Steelhead

 

Steelhead

Oncorhynchus mykiss

AKA:  Steelie

Distinguishing Markings:

Steelhead is a name given to rainbow trout that live in the Great Lakes.  Rainbow trout are native to the Pacific Ocean along North America and to rivers and other fresh waters of North America west of the Rocky Mountains.  They are a popular game fish, and for this reason have been introduced all over the United States.  Essentially a sea-going rainbow trout, Steelies have two dorsal fins including one adipose fin, mouth and gums are light, small spots along rays on entire tail, 10-12 rays in anal fin.

 

Size: 

5 to 14 pounds, up to 30 pounds

 

Distribution:

Rivers along the Pacific Coast and Great Lakes

 

Habitat:

Anadromous fish, they start their lives in freshwater rivers and creeks, migrate to sea, then spend one to six years in the ocean before returning to their home streams to repeat the cycle.  Usually found in waters less than 35 feet deep at temperatures of 58-62 degrees F. They are often found near stream outlets, especially in spring and early summer.

 

Food Preference:

Plankton, minnows, surface and bottom insects and other aquatic life.  Will eat other small fish if available.

 

Spawning:

Steelhead naturally spawn from mid-winter to late-spring, but two different runs--summer and winter--return to freshwater at different times.

 

Fishing Tips:

Many fishing methods take steelhead.  Although they feed primarily in mid-depths, they do take surface insects, including fly fishermen’s flies.  Drift-fishing is popular, casting upstream and letting the lure sink to the bottom and drift downstream with the current. Standard baits and lures for steelhead drift-fishing include clusters of fresh salmon or steelhead roe, live ghost shrimp, brightly colored steelhead "bobbers" and tufts of fluorescent nylon yarn. Casting wobbling spoons, spinner and artificial flies also produces steelhead strikes, as does drifting a leadhead jig suspended beneath a bobber.  Steelhead are valiant fighters and their flesh is outstanding no matter how it is cooked. An unbeatable combination that makes them one of the most popular North American sport fish.

 

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