20 lb Steelhead

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by thewaker, Jan 8, 2007.

  1. BDD

    BDD Active Member

    Alaska huh? A state not known to produce large numbers of fish or large fish, with the exception of the world record, which undoubtedly was headed for the Skeena. There are just a handful of rivers that offer populations of more than 1,000 fish annually and most are just moderately sized. Good for him.
  2. BDD

    BDD Active Member

  3. TomB

    TomB Active Member

    BDD-pretty big assertion to assume that the world record was headed for the skeena....did they do genetic work or are you making that up
  4. Kevin J. Burnham

    Kevin J. Burnham Active Member

    BDD, The river he caught the Steelhead in averages about 8 to 10 times that 1,000 number. There are a couple of very good rivers in Alaska and they see alot of pressure these days.
  5. Rob Zelk

    Rob Zelk I swing, therefore i am.

    I spoke with a comrade of Ed Ward's on the river one day. I asked about fish over 20lbs... He said, that Ed gets one about every 6 years. Considering how much Ed gets to fish, its not easy to catch one. But I know another good fisherman who has got one every season for the last 5 seasons, besides last year, so i think its largely being in the right place at the right time and putting in mucho hours on the river with a bit of luck in the mix aswell. Also as for estimating the weight of a fish, many many fish i see on websites have photos labeled "20lb. steelhead", or "20lb. atlantic" when there is no way the fish is that big. Overestimating by overly excited fishermen is a common occurance. It may depend on strain, but I'd say most would have a bit of trouble getting their hand to grip around the tail of most 20lb steelhead they are lucky enough to encounter, unless the fishermen is just a big dude.
  6. TomB

    TomB Active Member

    nice post rob
  7. Chris DeLeone

    Chris DeLeone Active Member

    BDD-pretty big assertion to assume that the world record was headed for the skeena....did they do genetic work or are you making that up
    Today 04:26 PM

    Tom I think he may be talking about fly caught steelhead, you may know about the Kispiox river. In the late 80's early 90's a man from ID caught a buck that was determined to be 37 lbs. The photo is on page 262 of your Trey Combs Steelhead Fly Fishing book. Many experts believe that the Kispiox has the largest race of steelhead in the world.

    Something to debate I guess

  8. Kevin J. Burnham

    Kevin J. Burnham Active Member

    100 % On Rob !! So many fish get over estimated. The one my buddy got had a tail so huge that there was like 3 inches between his fingers as he tailed it.
  9. TallFlyGuy

    TallFlyGuy Adipossessed!

    Ah, Lets not forget about Mr. Clay Sharp and all the 20+ lb summer runs he catches in just about every river he wets a line:ray1: :ray1:

    Let us not forget!

    :rofl: :rofl: .
  10. BDD

    BDD Active Member


    Yes you are right, there are a couple of Alaskan rivers that get substantially more but I chose, as did you, not to name them although most can probably guess which one. However, they are the exception rather than the rule as most Alaskan streams receive several hundred fish at most. I'm glad your late friend was able to hook and land a 20+ pound fish.


    I can't say for sure whether there was any genetics work done on the world record fish but an article was written on it years ago and I believe they did take a scale sample. If I recall correctly, they interviewed the ADFG employee who certified the fish and there was some speculation that it was Skeena origin (based on size, location of capture, and timing). Another interesting note was the fish had an injured eye and there was some speculation that the injury caused the fish to exhibit a long ocean residence. The fish was so large that even the state employee misidentifed the steelhead as a chinook salmon...at first. That idea, coupled with the fact that based on the results of Steelhead Flyfishing by Trey Combs, it was identified that there were several populations within the Skeena watershed that had been determined to hold the genetic material to grow some of the largest steelhead ever documented (life histories from scale samples). As DeLe pointed out, one population is from the Kispiox. So Tom, you may be correct in that it perhaps is a big assertion for me to make. The statement was my opinion but not necessarily made up either.
  11. Zen Piscator

    Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

    I hooked one clearwater stray this year that was in the 38-40inch size range.

    My biggest to date was 37 by 19. My average steelhead is about 5lbs although I brought home a 13lb hatchery buck today. I've seen a few 20lb fish and they were mostly taken from brawling rivers.

    On another note I did help my friend Gary clean a steelhead he had caught on the fly from the White Salmon in August that measured 45 by 22, that was the biggest steelhead I have ever seen, on the scale it weighed 31lbs.

    In Gary's 60 years as a steelhead fisherman, growing up on the Smith in California, this was by far the biggest he had ever seen, a hatchery fish to! I was greatful to see such a fish, there has to be very few of that size that come back to the columbia tribs every year

  12. fish-on

    fish-on Waters haunt me....

    My biggest steelhead to date was caught in march of 2001 in one of the OP rivers. It measured 43 1/2 in by 23 3/4 in. It was a last cast fish which I thought was a big snag. I was trying to break off my line already to call it a day and break down my rod when the rock started to run upstream. The fish stayed deep for a long while and then rolled on the surface. I personally thought it was too big to jump. After that all hell broke loose. Right on about the girth by the tail, there is no way you can get your hands anywhere close to clamp down completely. I had to use a net to get the beast. I was shaking uncontrollably when I released that fish and now have a replica mounted dead center in my living room. Based on the measurement and my best estimation, the fish was in the upper upper twenties if not over thirty.

    A Fish like this is etched forever in your mind. I was only in my 7th year of steelheading then (although I was putting in about 120 days a year). Knowing a few folks have been doing this for decades, I still don't know if I had put in enough time to deserve it.

  13. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    While 20 pounders certainly are amazing fish, it seems like a human made cut off for what qualifies as a truly amazing steelhead. The fact of the matter is, fish that big dont usually fight as well as say a 2-salt 12 pounder. With that being said, any truly large steelhead be it 15 pounds or 30 is an awesome creature. I've seen one photo of a 30+ pounder and I almost pooped myself.
  14. greyghost

    greyghost Member

    There are a lot of exaggerated fish out there, but I think more 20 lb steelhead are caught than most realize. The Umpqua, Smith, Chetco, Sol Duc, Skagit, etc put out many each year. Gear guys catch alot of them. My favorite fish of all are the mid-teen hens that almost always go absolutely bonkers. That being said, I have not landed many hens over 10-12 lbs. I seem to catch 3:1 bucks to hens when swinging flies.
    Fishing rivers with big genes helps, and I've heard that big fish years come in cycles, but more so it usually happens from being in the right place at the right time, which means spending a lot of time on the water. I got this fish at the end of a an hour long hailstorm in a system where my next best fish is about half as big in weight.


    PS. No laws were violated in removing this fish from the water.
  15. TomB

    TomB Active Member

    greyghost....its a pity you had to post such a small brat:rofl: .....Great fish!!
  16. KerryS

    KerryS Ignored Member

    This thread could have gone on for ever without a need to mention sharp.

    In 40 plus years of fishing for steelhead I have managed to land one legitimate 20 + pounder and 1 other that might have made 20. Both fish were caught in the Skagit. I have seen an additional 2 or 3 fish that may have been 20 pounds or better in the same 40 odd years. I think a lot of fish in the middle to upper teens get reported as 20 +.
  17. Zen Piscator

    Zen Piscator Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.

    Pete I would venture to guess that fish is easily over 20, very impressive buck man!
  18. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

    I have never come close to a 20#. My biggest taped to 13# but I am not really into the size game so much as just being out there and not at work. Anyway, this thread reminds me of a couple weekends ago:

    I am fishing my favorite local stream and have caught one hatchery fish for the day at maybe 6# probably a little less. Anyway, a boat of side drifters comes by and I inquire about any fish caught and the guys says, "Just got an 18 pounder". I say prove it and he holds it up proudly, it is maybe 10 probably 8 from my distance. I say good job and he floats on.....Next boat comes by and I ask again and the guy replies, "19 pounder", with a big shit eating grin. I say show me and he hesitates. I yell, "I don't believe you". And so he hoists it up.................It is maybe 7. So I say I got a 20# fish and hold up my 5-6# for him which is obviously a little smaller than his and he just gets this funny look on his face like he realizes I am mocking him. Maybe you had to be there. :)
  19. Kevin J. Burnham

    Kevin J. Burnham Active Member

    I have to amend my first post. I did see a dead 23 lb.fish in a freezer at a mini mart in The Dalles Ore. The guy who caught it was a gear guide and it was out of the John Day.
  20. Salmo_g

    Salmo_g Active Member


    "and I need to feel it!," you said.


    What's so magical about 20 pounds? It's larger than the average size steelhead in virtually every steelhead river on the planet. But the amount it varies from the average size depends on which river you're talking about. If it's from the Kispiox, Babine, or Sustut it's a nice fish, but not really in bragging territory when the average fish is about 14 pounds. A 20 pound steelhead would be a bonifide rarity from California's Klamath, Trinity, Eel, or Russian River systems because the average is so much smaller, and the likelihood of catching such a large fish is extremely low.

    I began fishing for steelhead in 1968 and seriously flyfishing for them since 1973. I've had the good fortune to catch three that were 20 pounds or over. The largest was just shy of 27, and it was one of the least active steelhead I've ever hooked. I like to fish for steelhead, and I enjoy hooking and catching interesting and exciting fish. Those fish usually aren't the largest ones.


    Salmo g.