Is this Steelhead by-catch?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by dflett68, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. dflett68 Active Member

    Posts: 601
    Ratings: +197 / 0
    Guys, I'm not a Steelheader. Since joining the forum I can feel the inexorable pull toward eventually gearing up for it and really trying. But for now I continue to do what I've always done - smaller fish in smaller settings with very light gear. Yesterday, my son and I hit the Snohomish near our home to target SRC's. That's also a fishery I really have very little experience with, but I've been following some of the helpful posts from the experts here and we went looking for the likely spots downstream of where the gear guys in boats were stacked up casting to Silvers. We found a short side channel with small stream qualities, lots of woody structure throughout, that was about 1/3 mile long and worked our way down it. In the first hole, the biggest one, I got my fly down good and deep and on the 2nd or 3rd cast got one of those long heavy gradual pulls. When I set up, I thought, "oh, nice heavy SRC, yes!" Fish fought kind of oddly, I thought, and came to hand fairly easily. Had to manage it around lots of woody debris, but brought it to hand and it was clearly O. Mykiss.

    So, I'm looking at it and thinking, "No way the Snoho is producing resident bows of this size, but this just seems so small for a Steelhead." I've never caught one before, this would be my first. Took lots of pics but I'll just post the ones most relevant to making an ID. What do you guys think? Resident or Steelhead? Have you ever caught one this small before? Do they come back that early?









    Cuttie, same pool:


    Celebratory Libation to the River Goddess:

  2. Brad Niemeyer Old School Member

    Posts: 676
    Woodinville, WA
    Ratings: +42 / 0
    Resident bow or small steelhead is a moot point that has been thrashed around on this board alot. Looks like a resident rainbow and yes way the snoho system can produce good sized rainbows just not that many. I found one just like that in the Pilchuck river a while back while searching for SRC ( winter)
  3. dflett68 Active Member

    Posts: 601
    Ratings: +197 / 0
    Thanks Brad. It may be moot as to genetics, but my question really is as to life-cycle. Did this fish grow up in this river or did it go to sea and return, that's not moot for my purposes cause I'm curious to know if I caught my first Steelhead or not :). Also curious to know whether Steelies come back that early. I suppose some must.

    Another detail of the catch I'll share is this: The fish took the fly deep in the tongue and I could see it bleeding before I even had it to hand. Even though I landed it in less than 2 minutes, and I spent a solid 40 minutes trying to revive it, it did not survive. I can't tell you how sick I felt over that, but I did everything I could. I can only presume that the wound from the hook is what killed it because I gave it so much time and attention in highly oxygenated water trying to revive it, after a very short fight, to no avail. Anyway, when I cleaned it, it's stomach was full of mayfly nymphs, but it's flesh was fully pink, not what I would have expected from a resident fish. I haven't killed a fish in this system before, or any fish for a very long time, so maybe all the resident trout in the Snoho have pink flesh, but I wouldn't expect it.

    I live on the Pilchuck in a section of very good habitat. I have snorkeled it a lot and I have seen a handful of fish larger than 11" - all of them SRC's. Largest real bow I've ever seen would have been about 10". There's very little food in the Pilchuck. I've never seen another west side river with so few Caddis. I'd be skeptical that any rainbow over 14 inches was resident, but there must be some I guess.
  4. KerryS Ignored Member

    Posts: 6,751
    Sedro Woolley, WA, USA.
    Ratings: +1,775 / 0
    There is a wealth of information on this board and the web in general on the relationship between steelhead and resident rainbows. The two are one of the same yet vary in many ways.
  5. fishbadger Member

    Posts: 196
    Gig Harbor, WA
    Ratings: +6 / 0
    Pretty little resident rainbow as far as I can tell. Don't feel too bad about the bleeder. . it happens. That fish will have its niche replaced in no time,

  6. Derek Day Rockyday

    Posts: 567
    Ratings: +146 / 0
    You'll know when you get your first steelhead.

    It won't be a, "Is this a steehead?" moment. It'll be a "Holy Shit! Mega-bow is doing cartwheels on the end of my line!!" moment.

    I would say that (at least with west-side fish) it's not a rainbow-steelhead continum. 4lb rainbow does not equal 4lb steelhead. I feel that they make a quantum leap--oh so different. Sometimes rainbows will hit hard enough that, initially, you'll think you have a steelhead, but, it becomes obvious quickly.

    Your first steelhead will blow your mind, you'll never be the same. On secont thought,keep chasing those cutts. I know my life was a lot simpler pre-steelhead.
  7. Smalma Active Member

    Posts: 2,831
    Marysville, Washington
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  8. dflett68 Active Member

    Posts: 601
    Ratings: +197 / 0
    Ha! Good post Derek. The only thing that blew my mind about this fish was the possibility that it was a resident fish from the Snohomish in excess of 15". But that really boils down to an assumption which I'm going to abandon as disproved now.

    Thanks everyone for your replies.
  9. kamishak steve Active Member

    Posts: 359
    Seattle, Wa
    Ratings: +67 / 0
    What makes you think that there couldn't be a rainbow of that size in the snohomish?

    Rainbows (even strictly resident bows) can be highly migratory within their river system. That fish could be gorging itself on pink & chum eggs all summer/fall in the lower river, and continue even into winter by eating coho eggs up in the lower skykomish.
    March would have it back in the lower river gorging on chum and pink fry, not to mention all the bug life in between. Those huge alaskan resident bows you see pictures of get to be that huge by eating pretty much the same food source...

    Don't underestimate the capacity of rivers like the snohomish to put out healthy resident fish.
  10. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
    Ratings: +688 / 1
    Earlier this summer I was fishing up high for Cutts and "accidentally" hooked a summer run. It was definatly a "holy crap! what kind of monster fish is trying to pull the 5wt from my hand." moment until it started doing cartweels and exposed itself for what it was.