What's a steelhead?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by dfl, Feb 23, 2014.

  1. Irafly said on another post that Wash. law requires wild steelhead to not be removed from the water. The organization that tracks record setting fish does not track steelhead because they are genetically a rainbow trout with no consistently identifiable differentiating characteristics. So, if you catch a big rainbow in a stream that flows to the salt, how do you, or the warden, know if it is a steelhead?

  2. If in doubt, it's a steelhead.
    fredaevans and rustybee like this.
  3. sea run rainbow trout 20" and over.

    It would take scientific testing to prove if the fish was in salt water, you cannot be 100% certain without the test. There are clues that can lead one to sway towards the steelhead answer. (lateral line, flaking scales, chrome). With all the stages of a fishes life cycle..... you can find lots of steelhead that look like bows..... vice versa.

    They set the mark at 20" and thats were the game begins. ;)
    fredaevans and Porter like this.
  4. They are a Pacific Northwest myth and many of us have countless hours chasing them trying to prove otherwise!

    The big foot of the fish world!

  5. The same regulation as to what is and what isn't a steelhead also applies in Oregon. If the river is known to hold steelhead, any rainbow trout caught over 20-inches in that river is considered a steelhead... even if it is really a resident rainbow.

    Probably the only river that you'd run into that problem in Oregon is The Deschutes.

    Now... there is a slot limit for resident redsides. So, if the trout is really a redside, you can't keep it if it is 20-inches. BUUUUTT... during steelhead season if you catch a redside that is 20-inches; because the regs indicate it is considered a steelhead... then technically, you could keep it and claim it is a steelhead.

    Isn't that nice and confusing.
    Kaiserman and Porter like this.
  6. Even if it's legalistically accurate, there's something so wrong about an interpretation of fish regulations that leads to removing a large native rainbow or steelhead from its river, for anyone's gratification. In the extremely remote chance that you catch such a fish, burn its image into your memory as you gently release it. Then you may either tell your friends and dare them to doubt you, or just take out the memory and enjoy it whenever you choose.:cool:
  7. Wouldn't the 20 + inch redside need to be clipped to be retained?

    Go Sox,

  8. Same thing I was thinking. Pretty sure any unclipped fish over 20" on the D is off limits period. Probably to protect wild steelhead from "I thought it was a big trout....prove I am wrong."
  9. My comment in the "They Are Comming..." thread was meant in jest, but I could see how this gets very confusing. The Yakima is a good example here. I'm sure there are guide sites with 20+" bows held up for pictures out of the Yak and they are likely just that, Bows and not Steel, but some are also quite likely steel and I would be curious how many guides now on the Yak require their clients to keep all their real big fish in the water just in case?

  10. Reg's are very similar here in Oregon. Most rivers will not allow you to 'keep' a Native fish (all fins attached). Rogue River is one of the few exceptions during the winter; you can keep up to five. Rare that someone won't turn the fish back.
  11. Yes, and I suppose that's how the ODF&W figure trout won't be killed as a steelhead. I forgot about the clip thing. Good catch.
  12. When I was fishing in California last week I was told it is now a requirement to carry a steelhead catch card everywhere on the Sacramento and all trout over 20 inches had to be marked...so I guess I caught like 5 steelhead that day that looked suspiciously like resident rainbows. :confused:
  13. Rumor has it that the Cedar River in King County has rainbows in the 20"+ range, which in fact could be residualized steelhead that have become residents since the food source is so good (outmigrating sockeye salmon juveniles from the upstream hatchery)....why go out to the salt? Luckily, it's C&R only, to protect these special fish...but I know the poachers get their share.
  14. Dfl,

    Slow down a little bit and vary your speed. It helps to twitch the rod tip every so often as well.

    Best of luck brother!
  15. I do not know what a steelhead is I have not even seen one up close yet. :(
    plaegreid likes this.
  16. censored
  17. I say if great lakes rainbows are steelhead then those big lake run cedar river bows are steelhead too, probably even more so:)

  18. That's a damn good day on the Sac!
  19. Rainbow Trout: spots above and below the lateral line, including on the belly
    Steelhead: Minimal spots below the lateral line, none on the belly.

    At least that's my understanding.
  20. This is the best explanation of the difference I've found yet. It's from the Alaska F&G site.

    According to this, the steelhead have spots below the lateral line and the rainbow do not.

    FinLuver likes this.

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