Lil' Steelhead?

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by HauntedByWaters, Sep 18, 2006.

  1. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    Firstly, I know this question is subjective, but I just had to ask because it has happened to me so many times. I am fishing one of our north Seattle streams and catch a lovely little steelhead in the 14” to 18” range. This fish is white and chrome, thick and heavy for its size, so it has been to sea. So, what do I call this around here? Is this a steelhead? If not, than what size does a “sea-run rainbow” have to be in order to be called a steelhead? Secondly, do I call this a “half pounder” even though it really isn’t as those Rogue fish have a life cycle all their own as I understand it. Thirdly, and this is more scientific, is this a “jack-steelhead”?

    I am asking this because I was fishing the S______ the other day and caught a lovely white little doe about 15” in length. I thought it was the squirrelliest SRC I had ever hooked because it was in some slower water but it turned out to be a little steelhead.
     
  2. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    JB -
    We have had several discussions about those fish recently. It is my opinion that the vast majority of those 12 to 18 inch O. mykiss being caught in the "S" rivers are resident rainbows. Over the years I have taken scale samples from a number of those fish with the majority of those 14 to 18 inch being 4 to 6 years old (too old to be steelhead and no evidence of marine growth) with some of the really large fishing being as old as 10 years.

    They are great fish and typcially are pretty spunky and often heavier for their length than a steelhead. I have caught one each of the last two cuttrhoat trips with each coming from a different "S" river.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  3. fish-on

    fish-on Waters haunt me....

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    Smalma,

    Thanks for the input. I have been entertaining the same question for quite some time now. I do encounter those fish in the S rivers quite a bit. I can't call it a parr or a smolt since some of them are over 12 inches in length and look like a steelhead but really thick shouldered and also have adipose fins I have always wondered if they are resident/native rainbows.

    Tight lines.

    John
     
  4. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    I caught a 16" steelhead last year in a lake with no resident rainbows and a run of 10-20 steelhead total, I could tell it had just come from salt water pretty fish
     
  5. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    Thanks for the replies everyone! So I guess my next question is this: If a steelhead were to decide not to go out to sea, would it retain its clean white and chrome colors? I was always under the impression that it was the salt that gave those fish their chrome but am I wrong? This "resident rainbow" that I caught didn't look anything like any for-sure resident rainbows I have ever caught in other rivers, even these rivers. I definately think there are 2 varieties here. THe fish I caught didn't look anything like the one that was on D Dickson's site a couple weeks ago, that one was obviously a resident with its dark spots and purple/green colors. I will get a pic next time I catch one it is just hard because they NEVER stop flipping and fighting. Quite a fish to be sure :thumb:
     
  6. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    Oops repeat post of the above.
     
  7. Kyle Smith

    Kyle Smith Active Member

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    I'm going with either jack steelhead or sea-run cutthroat. It can be hard to see the slash marks on searun cutts. Did you check for an adipose fin? I was catching fish in the 10-13" range on the Snoqualmie and I thought they might be resident rainbows, but I'm convinced that they're former hatchery steelhead, too large to be smolts.
     
  8. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    JB -
    There is some pretty interesting information being developed about the inter-play between the resident and anadromous life histories of O. mykiss. Folks are finding out that offspring from resident fish can become steelhead and that steelhead can produce resident fish. In addition it is not all that uncommon for a spawning pair to have both resident (usually males) and anadromous life histories. One study found something like 20% of the smolts leaving the basin had non-amadromous male parents.

    The coloration has little to do with the fish's parents and more about its rearing environment and maturity. I caught one of those rainbows (~ 14")the other day on the North Fork Stillaguamish whose most folks would have called chrome. "Brighter" than any of the cutts I caught that day. Those brigther fish tend to be females and tend to be fish that have not yet spawn. Adult resident stream fish (both males and females) that have reached maturity and spawned once don't ever seem to recover fully and typcially retain some coloration. If you think about it in many rainbow fisheries the smaller ( 8/10 ") fish are typcially brigher than the larger older fish. The fish we usually associate with the "typical rainbow coloration" are the big fish so commonly seen in "hero shots".

    Coolkyle -
    Just to be clear we are talking about fish that have their adipose fiins. With wild summer steelhead in North Puget Sound we don't really see what would typically be called "Jacks". Many of the wild fish return as one-salt fish. Go to see as 2 year smolts in May, feed all that summer and return the following summer (ranging in size from 19 to 30 inches) and spawn the next spring as 4 year old fish. A summer Jack would go to sea as a smolt in May and return a few months later as a mature fish. While returning after just a few months of rearing does occur - typical in southern Oregon/north California - and are called "half pounders". Those fish are nearly always immature fish thus don't meet the definition of a Jack. That half pounder behavior is not unheard of here in North Puget Sound (typcially in the 15 to 17 inch range and returning to the lower rivers in the fall) though it is much rarer than that of the resident fish. Again scales would provide some insight into which behavior is being talked about. A 15 inch half pounder would be its 3rd year while the same size resident fish would in its 4 or 5 year with a big difference in growth that last year(s).

    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  9. rmenefee

    rmenefee Pool Spooker

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    Has anyone seen Steelhead in the rivers that have sea lice on them?
    Here in the east. We catch huge stripers in the fresh water Bay around Maryland in the spring when the cows come up from the atlantic and go in the shallow creeks to spawn. I mean 50 inch fish in 3 feet of water. They are all scared up and have lice on them. Wondering if the same happens on your end of the world?
     
  10. HauntedByWaters

    HauntedByWaters Active Member

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    Scars and sealice do happen, although not as freqently as those stripers I imagine. Steelhead are a rare blessing. I have heard stripers return in thick schools. Most of our rivers here in the North Puget Sound don't provide good flyfishing right near the salt for steelhead. On the Olympic Peninsula things are different, I have caught some nice sea-freshies there.
     
  11. Diehard

    Diehard aka Justin

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    I caught a few 14" fish in the NF Stilly last weekend that looked just like bows, but they were clipped. Not silvery at all, looked like they have never left the stream.
     
  12. TomB

    TomB Active Member

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    i caught a 15" o mykiss at the end of august in the nf stilly that had sea lice.
    -T
     
  13. East Fork

    East Fork Active Member

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    Mine’s smaller :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

    It was an epic battle on a 14 foot 9 weight! But hey, a steelhead is a steelhead, right?
     
  14. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    East fork -
    "A steelhead is a steelhead" - - a good one!!

    Of course unless it is a Chinook.

    Tight lines
    Curt
     

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