What's a steelhead?

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

  1. Freestone Not to be confused with freestoneangler

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    Just to clarify WA law, it is not just wild steelhead that can't be removed from the water. We tend to get excited about wild steelhead getting lifted for photos but you could just as easily get a ticket for lifting a Chinook, bull trout or hatchery steelhead for a photo and then releasing it.


    FRESHWATER: “It is unlawful to totally remove salmon, steelhead, or Dolly Varden/Bull Trout from the water if it is unlawful to retain those fish, or if the angler subsequently releases the salmon, steelhead, Dolly Varden/Bull Trout.”
  2. Kcahill Active Member

    Posts: 894
    Renton, WA
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    It was pure insanity...we hooked so many fish between the launch and sundial bridge (like 1 mile) that we pretty much rowed through the rest of the river. Right place at the right time.
  3. ChaseBallard bushwhacker

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    If that was true, then I've caught hundreds of wild steelhead!

    Since it's from AK, any picture of an Alaskan Leopard Rainbow would prove them backwards on the spotting. Otherwise nice intel.
  4. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,989
    Willamette Valley, OR
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    I'm amazed how fragile the wild fish must be... how the hell can they even manage to swim upstream?

    With the regs as restrictive as they are, simply close down all the rivers and bays and open only the lakes for fishing.


    How on earth do all those Yellowstone cutthroat in YNP and the rainbow living in pay to play fisheries manage to live through human contact? -- yet they do... again and again.

    At study was made in YNP as to the mortality rate of the wild cutthroat that were caught and released. It was estimated that the trout in the most popular areas were hooked and released an average of 9 times per year. Using scuba gear, the park biologists watched what happened to the trout that were caught and released. They found a mortality rate of 3 percent. Hooked 9 times per year by folks who may or may not know how to handle a fish and only 3 percent of those hooked and released died.

    We are talking about wild and native fish... same as the wild steelhead, salmon and bull trout in Washington and Oregon.

    Evidently, wild salmon, steelhead and bull trout are total wimps!
    Salmo_g likes this.
  5. porterHause Just call me Jon

    Posts: 326
    Seattle, WA
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    Isn't it 17 inches in CA? My father went out last year on the Shmershmorshman River and caught 7
    "Steelhead" that looked pretty resident to me.
  6. Travis Bille Active Member

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    McKinleyville, CA
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    There's a riffle just upstream from the sundial bridge that I pulled 5 bruisers out of one day, none of them hit 20" though. One fish I never saw... I set the hook and it took off towards the bridge, pulled out all of my fly line in one run, and broke me right the hell off. It was insanely powerful.
  7. PT Physhicist

    Posts: 3,544
    Edmonds, WA
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    I'm no tree hugger, or fish hugger, or any type of hugger in between. But, guides should show their clients that the fish come first and make every effort to educated them on how to handle fish properly. The bigger fish, if not all, should be left in the water. Or at least held close to the water where we can see that stream of water dripping off them in the picture. People shouldn't take any fish for granted and a photo op is the best place to practice what many preach.
    jake-e-boy likes this.
  8. jake-e-boy Active Member

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    just finished looking over reports from the OP, local guide has a client posing with a hatchery fish and it's head is under water... Guess trying to keep fresh before bonk?!
  9. PT Physhicist

    Posts: 3,544
    Edmonds, WA
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    No reason not to treat a hatchery fish with a little respect either. People who throw their hatchery fish up the bank and let it die a slow death are throwing a living thing up there with no respect toward life or death.

    Just my .02
    dfl, Gary Knowels, Whitey and 2 others like this.
  10. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 3,989
    Willamette Valley, OR
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    I'm scanning my Deschutes slides to build another slide show you guys will need to suffer through. I've taken a close look at the redside photos and chase... you are absolutely correct!!! The info from the Alaska F&G site is backwards!

    The photos of the trout show spots below the lateral line... unless this is really a steelhead.

    gt holding trout_edited-1.jpg
  11. Red Arch Active Member

    Posts: 150
    Lower Mainland or Interior of BC
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    Spots below the lateral line in rainbow trout and steelhead are a result of the strain of fish. For those who have come up to BC for Stillwater, you are probably familar with the pennask strain.

    These guys have almost no spots but fight awesome. There is also the Fraser Valley (hatchery ) strain. There are heavily spotted and some go below the lateral line.

    As for steelhead I have caught lots by the definition rule, but in reality only 2. Neither had many spots at all, and none below the ll
  12. jake-e-boy Active Member

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    wasn't implying you should abuse them, not some psycho 12 year old burning ants here.... But when I catch hatchery steel or a fish I plan on eating, it dies, bleeds out, and has its guts removed before i start worrying about a damn picture
  13. PT Physhicist

    Posts: 3,544
    Edmonds, WA
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    My post wasn't directed at you or anyone else. Just posting my thoughts.
  14. Smalma Active Member

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    Marysville, Washington
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    I suspect the "Alaska" write-up was directed at IDing a steelhead/rainbow as compared to the various salmon and not separating rainbows and steelhead. Chrome salmon don't have spots below the lateral line.

    Red Arch -
    I was thinking about those "kamloop" rainbows as well. Most of the ones I have caught have very few spots.

    GAT -
    That O. mykiss you are holding looks to have a deformed dorsal (a hatchery fish) does that make a difference in the rainbow/steelhead call?

    In my limited experience I have noticed significant regional, life history, and sexual maturity influences on both the coloration and spotting on individual O. mykiss. On the waters that I generally fish the only sure way to separate the anadromous life history from the resident form (the lake run compound the issue even further) has been to look at the scales. Though when the resident rainbows have access to looks of food (like salmon eggs and flesh) they can "blow-up" and be much more robust than steelhead.

  15. jake-e-boy Active Member

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    just didn't want any internet authorities thinking i mishandle hatchery fish, guys at nwsteelheaders or 3 river alliance might say mean things about my mom :(
  16. GAT Active Member

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    Willamette Valley, OR
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    Smala, in the days the photo was shot, I didn't pay any attention to dorsal fins because we released all the redsides we caught so it didn't matter. I don't remember if it was fin clipped or not.

    I've only tried fishing once for steelhead on The D and didn't catch a thing. I'm much more comfortable fishing the Oregon coastal rivers for steelhead than the central Oregon rivers.

    So, in the days we fished The Deschutes, we were after the trout. Sometimes one of the guys would hook a steelhead by mistake but because they were set up with light gear for trout, they'd never landed the steelhead.