A steelhead is a salmon??

Jim Wallace

Smells like low tide.
Any fish that isn't farm raised is called wild in the restaurant biz. By wild, they mean it lived in the wild and not a net pen. Could be of hatchery origin or could be native. They're all caught in nets, so I'll be fishing the runoff of hell's glaciers before I buy any.
Dead spot on. Restaurants only seem to differentiate between "wild" and "farmed."

My mom served up some "farmed steelhead" on my last visit. She thought I'd enjoy it, as I have been getting skunked all Fall. She's 87 and getting older all the time, so I told her it was delicious! I did ask her to try to buy wild caught Alaska salmon in the future, and gently admonished her to avoid buying farmed fish or any wild steelhead in the future, as I am opposed to the commercial salmon farming industry and the commercial harvest of steelhead. She agreed. Thanks Mom!:thumb:
I dont eat at resaturants much but when i do and they serve any kind of fish, i always quiz them on it just to see what they know. and in most cases they dont have a clue.

Why i mention that is because you failed to do it and therefore i agree with a few others that you shouldnt have freaked out. First thing i ask is what kind of fish it is and then almost more importantly is if they know what technique was used to catch it. if they dont know the answer to one or both of these questions i wont buy it. i feel though that if you are dining at a fine restaurant that requires you to pay out 20-40 bucks for fish they should know what it is.

Im still wondering though if what you ordered was steelhead or salmon, you dont seem to know. did the manager ever figure it out? heres a hint if it was really delicious it was steelhead, if it was so-so it was salmon.
I've said it before and I'll say it again- whenever the topic of farmed fish comes up: Please DO eat farmed fish folks!

Maybe not farmed salmon, there's some issues with that industry as it is currently practiced. However, you should definitely be choosing farmed fish over wild fish in general.

Overfishing is alive and well, and responsible for declining stocks of wild fish all around the globe. As with any other resource (for example; timber and every other food source) intensive culture for human consumption is the only logical, civilized and sustainable way to maintain supply without destroying wild stocks.

There are several well established, low-impact fish farming models that we all (those of us who like to eat fish) should be patronizing. Examples of these are farmed Tilapia, Catfish, rainbow trout and hybrid striped bass. These operations are less wasteful and less damaging to the environment than meat and poultry production, especially if they are conducted here in the US. Techniques for farming other species are improving.

Sure, there are a number of apparently well-managed wild stocks of fish out there that can produce a finite number of fish/year. These should be considered a premium priced delicacy, not food for the ever-growing masses. Those folks who think they are doing the world a favor by eating wild fish can only get away with it because everyone else is eating farm raised fish. God help us if they ever convince the other half to eat wild too!

I don't get worked up about much but fishermen making statements like "don't eat farmed fish" is one thing that really gets me going.

.. stepping off the soapbox-


Recreational User
Damn there is just a PILE of ignorance and self-righteousness on display here.

Do you think that some server, or even a proper Maitre'D, is going to know the ins and outs of the seafood industry?

Probably not. Your expectations of them to do so, and haughty dismissal of them when they fail to perform, is rather self-absorbed.

And speaking of self-absorbed, there are probably more wild and sustainable commercial fisheries in the US than Sustainable, minimal-impact seafood farms IN THE WORLD, and Alaska Wild Salmon at over 200 million fish is certainly sustainable, abundant, and very well-managed.

Do yourselves a favor and get educated on the fish you pursue for sport. They are someone else's livelihood, someone else's cultural heritage, and someone else's food. We can't all be rich enough to send it back.
Before we get down on Snake too much here, guys, most Seattle seafood restaurants, and certainly any that considers itself to be of a good quality as any in Pike Place Market should, will know where their salmon comes from. I routinely ask whether salmon is wild (which includes hatchery, as others point out, but not farmed) or farmed and I have never been told "I don't know" by any restaurant in the Seattle area. It is their business to know and to be able to answer their patrons' questions. If the server does not know, then he/she should offer to inquire (she seemed to know, but not to be very knowledgeable about salmon, and the manager did know where it came from).

I can understand Snake's being upset to have Steelhead being served as salmon and, as Freestone pointed out, the establishment probably was legally remiss in labeling steelhead as salmon to begin with. That said, sometime one has to simply cover one's upset and take the message to another venue, which Snake did by sending a note to the proprieter.

As far as the abundance of "wild and sustainable commercial fisheries in the US" or the world, they are tanking rapidly world-wide and the success of today's Alaska salmon fishery is no guarantee that it will survive 10, 20 or 50 years from now. Think how fast salmon stocks on the west coast have declined starting in California and moving north. I, for one, wouldn't bet on Alaska salmon being sustainable for very long in the face of changing climate and ocean conditions, increased demand, and increased fishing pressure from increasingly technologically advanced fishing fleets. We may live to tell our grandchildren about the seemingly unlimited supply of Alaska salmon that once returned to the rivers and streams of coastal Alaska, but do no more.



tryin' not to get too comfortable

I haven't had a response from my e-mail to the owner, and when I called the restaurant today, the person I spoke to was very evasive on the subject. I was (eventually) able to speak to a prep chef, who (eventually) admitted that what they were advertising as 'wild salmon' was indeed steelhead. He didn't know if it was hatchery or wild (or wouldn't admit it).

I've gotten a lot of PM requests for the name of the restaurant, which demonstrates to me that many of you truly care about this issue.

The restaurant is Matt's In The Market.

I feel stupid that I am just now becoming aware of this problem, because it has surfaced several times in the past on this board:






These threads show that being proactive, and speaking rationally, can have a positive result. I don't know if the WSC sent out letters this year, or not. If the restaurant owners realize serving wild steelhead is wrong to a large number of people, maybe they won't buy it from the tribes, and maybe the tribes will get the message. Or maybe the law itself will need to change.

I think the restaurant industry recognizes the controversy, and is mis-labelling steelhead on purpose, or at least that's what it seems like in this instance.

I'm sorry if I come off as 'haughty' or 'self-absorbed'. It wasn't like I was beating the waitress down for not knowing what kind of fish it was. I assumed it was salmon, as advertised, and trusted it was from a sustainable resource. I should have asked before I ordered. I didn't freak out or make a big scene. None of the tables around us even knew what was happening. I try not to be a complete neanderthal.

But I will not support a restaurant that serves steelhead, unless it is all documented to be hatchery fish. Since they don't need to (legally) distinguish hatchery from wild, I geuss I won't patronize a restaurant that sells steelhead, period.

I'm re-thinking my stance on restaurants that serve salmon, too. But damn, that rules out a lot of decent eateries....

This whole incident has been quite a revelation to me.
When I eat at a restaurant, I expect that restaurant to know where there product is coming from, that goes for the owner, chef, and servers. Before going to law school I worked in the restaurant business for almost ten years. At the nicer restaurants I worked at you were required to know what was on the menu. If they do not, it is probably a crappy place (this has nothing to do with how much your meal cost either), because if they do not take pride in what they are serving then you know they don't care about anything else.

Also, if I see Buffalo on the menu I will order that over Beef any day of the week. Better for the environment, taste better and better for your health.


Piscatorial Engineer
Snake, I for one do not think you owe anyone an apology. I applaud your social consciousness, even if you aren't armed with infinite knowledge on the subject - few of us are. My guess is there is one more person who will think about the subject of your question than there was before. There are some fundamental truths. Wild stocks of a number of runs and species are in trouble as a direct result of abuse of the resource. The pendulum needs to swing back, and it won't do it by itself. For every "sustainable" fisherman out there, there are others who are mining depleted resources in the Sound, in the Columbia, on Peninsula streams, and Puget Sound tributaries. We, the sport fishing community, with diffuse voices, take it in the neck over and over again. To paraphrase, "I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it any more." When I get like that, I don't like to be confused with facts...

Wild steelhead on a plate is wrong. Period. I don't care who caught it, where they caught it, or why they killed it. There is nothing in the proud native american heritage that says genocide of a species, or run, is OK. Allowing commercial take of even incidental wild steelhead is wrong. You can sugar coat it however you want, but that doesn't change facts.

I applaud your awareness and willingness to act. You may be better prepared, or better informed in the future, but it does not change the sentiment.

I know there are others who will disagree with me, that's ok. This is my $.02.

I say, "Good on you."


Well-Known Member
Good work Snake. A lot of people have probably learned something from your experience and report here.

I don't order salmon in restaurants that often, since I cook it to perfection myself, I won't pretend it's as good as what I make myself. When I do order fish, it's only after consulting with the wait staff. I agree that it seems weird, since I never ask about the pedigree of the beef if I order steak or prime rib. But I'm a fish snob, and I don't apologize for it. I took quite a while to explain at length to a waiter and his manager when they said they were serving Atlantic King salmon; the whole Atlantic salmon, king of fishes, to Chinook salmon, King of Pacific salmon, etc., through the whole list of species. In the end they agreed they had no idea what they were serving as salmon. I ordered Alaska halibut, and they at least knew it was fresh, not frozen.

It's worth having these exchanges with restaurant staff. We all come off more knowledgeable than before.

Any chef worth his weight can look at a fillet and tell immediatly if it is net pen or wild. By wild, I mean "freerange hatchery" or "native". Also a good chef will be able to distinguish the difference between a salmon or steelhead based on the fat content and texture of the fillet. If they do not understand the difference in fat content between these fish, your meal is probably going to taste like shit anyway.