Big Upper Yakima Rainbow


Active Member
Does the ever changing flows during irrigation season hinder bug life? Especially during the big run up in the summer and the draw down in the fall? Are there negative effects of local agriculture, beyond irrigation, that prevent there from being more bugs?

Does the success rate of spawning salmon reaching the areas above Roza Dam create more high protien food sources for the trout? Would the Yakama Nations desire to add additional hatchery salmon help or hinder the life span of the trout?

What are the negative effects of all the cheap beer, poured or pissed, into the river by CWU students? Not to mention all of the coconut scented sun tan lotion. ;)

Jim Jones
The biggest contributor to the lack of consistent bug life is the flip flop. James provides a pretty insightful response based on his personal experience.

The salmon might provide a seasonal food source for trout in eggs, flesh and smolts but those smolts also use resources as well. The number of returning adults probably do little in the way of nutrient transfer from ocean to river.

No comment on your last question.


Active Member
Of all the pictures in this thread, Jeff's is the only one I would consider a potential steelhead. The body shape is much more "fusiform" a characteristic that is useful if you need to swim hundreds of miles to reach the spawning grounds. As James notes, the rib bones are visible. You'd be skinny too if you hadn't consistently eaten in six months or more and were just living on stored fats. And finally, the color and spotting pattern appear more similar to steelhead of the mid and upper Columbia. The one kicker (which is hardly a scientific fact) is typically steelhead have a slightly larger/wider tail than resident trout. I refer to it as a large "rudder" that is used by fish that need to swim long distances. Jeff's fish has a relatively small tail for a steelhead but again, that wouldn't be a huge deciding factor. The other pictures appear to be nice resident Yakima rainbows.

Zen Piscator

Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.
To me, jeff's fish is a female 1 salt steelhead that has about a month until spawning. The egg skiens have not detached but look fairly mature from the look of the stomach. The other fish all have got to be resident rainbows.


Tropical member
rainbows of the yakima have 10 fold the lifespan of all other rainbows because the hatches are so shitty they have nothing but caddis to eat... As a survival mechanism they live 70-100 years to attain spawning size because the growing season is so short and lack of food so dire. I figured you would know this being a professional and all...
Are you serious?!! This is not true, malnutrition will make fish small, not make them live longer. People live in the Ethiopia, they do die young...
Ok, not arguing here, just interested in hearing everyones opinion. We will never know if those fish went to the salt for a year, or if they are all resident rainbows, and it really doesn't matter, any of us would be stoked to catch one of those fish on the Yak. My opinion on the first fish is resident rainbow in the middle of spawning (look at ovipositor in picture). The second fish I am sticking with steelhead either about to spawn or recently spawned (kelt) female. The third fish to me is up in the air. Really nice fish, and my first instinct would be to say rainbow, but I recently caught a steelhead that looked somewhat similar which brings in some doubt. I attached a pic of the steelhead just to add to the confusion:D. And who knows, maybe my steelhead was in fact a resident rainbow about to spawn. I am probably beating this one with a stick here, but just thought I would throw this in. Thanks for the comments guys.

I attached a pic of the steelhead just to add to the confusion:D.
I know there will always be freaks and exceptions which is wonderful about the natural world but I have to say that looks like a resident fish. I bet it is NOT a steelhead. I have never caught a searun fish that looked chubby and porky or anything like that fish. That even looks like a lake bow to me but that is an even sketchier thing to guess........It is definately displaying spawning colors which may make it look like a steelhead to some, but that is because our only encounters with steelhead are during their spawning runs up rivers so they all display spawning colors (unless they are chromers, just wait a week or two). Unlike steelhead, we can catch rainbows at any time during the year at any time in their life cycle.

Anyway, searun fish, at least the ones that travel thousand of miles across oceans will always look different because of the physics involved. They look like a ROCKET. The chrome is also a factor but after a fairly short time most of the chrome is gone and the freshwater colors return but that body shape will remain. These are only the obvious factors.

It is kinda like my ability to spot a female dungeness or a male dungeness from a mile away after working as a commercial crabber; it is hard to pinpoint the telltail signs but the mind just does it automatically by calling up subconsious images from past experiences. I have caught my share of steelhead and seen my share of steelhead being caught. Conversely after living in Bozeman I have seen my share of trout too......there are many telltail signs but I would be hard pressed to prove exactly what they are or if they are 100% accurate. Before I was an adult I got to fish 200 hundred plus days a year and definately caught too many fish for one man to catch in a lifetime and this helps me decipher what is and what isn't.

BTW this is an interesting discussion so thank for fueling the fire :)

I am basically 100% sure that the fish that I posted is a steelhead. I agree with you that it doesn't look like it, but for reasons I wont go into I can basically gaurantee that it is a steelhead. That is why I posted it, just to show that what we think is not always the case. After working with adult steelhead for two season for the WDFW I feel like I am pretty decent at identifying residents and steelhead, but there are always those fish that dont fit the norm. Anyways, like you said, its always good to hear peoples opinions and add to the discussion.