Distinguishing a steelhead from a large rainbow?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Luv2Spey, Oct 2, 2002.

  1. Luv2Spey Member

    Posts: 177
    Sammamish, WA, USA.
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    Fished the Skagit from Bacon Creek to Rockport Monday and Tuesday. Monday afternoon I caught the largest "rainbow" trout of my life. This trout measured 24".

    Here's some additional information:

    + The fish was wild (adipose fin was intact).

    + I caught the fish while grease-lining a classic hairwing salmon/steelhead fly (of my own design).

    + The fish did not look like a steelhead. Steelhead I've seen seem to be either "two-toned" (dark top, light on bottom) or in spawning colors (red on gill plates, etc.,). Frankly, this fish just looked like a big native rainbow.

    + The next day, fishing with RxFisher, I LLR'd another fish that was probably a little larger, but not by much. Again, I was greasing a spey version of the same fly. I was able to get the fish close enough to observe that it was probably another one of these "big rainbows".

    Now, here's my question:

    Given that this was the Skagit (and not known for a resident population of large rainbows), can I legitimally claim to have caught a summer run steelhead? :DUNNO



    P.S. I chose not to take a gloat picture because (1) I am a modest fellow, (2) I was alone, (3) The fish looked exhausted, and (4) The shore was mud and rock, and the water was muddy (from my wading).

    Fortunately, the fish was revived and swam away quite vigorously.
  2. pwoens Active Member

    Posts: 2,570
    Spokane, Washington, USA.
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    I was always under the impression that any rainbow over 20" was considered a steelhead?? Either way I think you have bragging rights with that nice of a fish :THUMBSUP .

  3. YAKIMA AKA: Gregory Mine

    Posts: 766
    Las Vegas
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    Take the claim and walk with pride...
  4. SpeyRodBeBop Member

    Posts: 176
    Mission, British Columbia.
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    Err ahh.....So tell us more about this fly.

    For when sleeping I dream of big fish and strong fights.


  5. 0012 New Member

    Posts: 55
    Eagle River, Alaska, USA.
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    Steelhead are large rainbows
    Noscientist can tell with 100% certenty that its a bow or a steelhead w/ o some kind of DNA analisis call it a rainbow, we're now calling fish in the keani that look like steelies rainbows so whatever, gloat
    and dolly varden are artic char and bull trout for that matter

    Tight Lines From Alaska
    0012 :THUMBSUP
  6. Nailknot Active Member

    Posts: 1,895
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    Steelhead are rainbows that spend time in the sea, basically. It sounds to me like you got into native summer run Skagit steelhead. That said, I'm sure there are a few resident rainbow/steelhead that attain that size in the Skagit- and I'm guessing there's someone out there who fishes them and knows the difference. Steelhead have a lot of variation by design. Thay are, after all, rainbow trout that make their way to the salt in various patterns, and stay in the salt for a various length of time. The only real way to tell a resident from a steelhead, as far as i know, is to test ear bone development, which is impacted by salt water. Unlike the hatchery fish which fit your narrow description of "steelhead" as bright or deeply colored, the natives will vary widely by run, time of year, etc etc. My guess is that you caught a summer run native, which tend to be smallish anyway. Maybe something like this fish?: http://www.robelam.com/fishing/02images/rob_steelhead.jpg
  7. flyfishnm Member

    Posts: 248
    Helena, MT
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    very nice fish :THUMBSUP :YUM
  8. Nailknot Active Member

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  9. Paul Huffman Lagging economic indicator

    Posts: 1,419
    Yakima, WA.
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    That looks like the Newhalem bridge and Ross Mountain.
  10. shockedalaskan New Member

    Posts: 86
    kirkland, wa, us.
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    Where did you catch that~


    phil :BLUSH
  11. MacRowdy Idaho Resident Craftsman/Artisan

    Posts: 1,127
    Ashton, Idaho
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    Would have loved to have seen a picture of that fish. Woweee sounds like a beauty! Gloat on my friend gloat on! I love it!

  12. cuponoodle breakfast gritty

    Posts: 1,651
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    Looks like the leaning tree hole on the Cascade to me.
  13. Nailknot Active Member

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    Nice call :)
  14. cuponoodle breakfast gritty

    Posts: 1,651
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    So there ARE summer steelhead in the Skagit. I was starting to think they were a myth.
  15. Nailknot Active Member

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    I dunno. I think there's *everything* in the Skagit drainage. I believe that fish was C&R in late October last year. Looked skinny. Maybe a kelt from the previous winter? Maybe an early winter fish? Probably a summer fish. But who knows exactly? For sure, there's wild fish making a go of it year round in the Skagit/Sauk tribs.
  16. Bart New Member

    Posts: 332
    Kirkland, Washington.
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    I agree with Patrick 20"+=steely. Strut, brother, strut. You too Nailknot. Gotta love it. Bart