Steelhead are Now Classified as Salmon?- Why?

#1
A couple of friends at work discovered this, that Steelhead are now classified as the 6th species of Pacific Salmon, (Oncorhynchus Mykiss).
One of them gave me a printout from WDFW stating this new change, with photos/descriptions of each of the 6 species. Can anyone clarify/explain the reason for this change? Thanks for the help.
 
#2
A couple of friends at work discovered this, that Steelhead are now classified as the 6th species of Pacific Salmon, (Oncorhynchus Mykiss).
One of them gave me a printout from WDFW stating this new change, with photos/descriptions of each of the 6 species. Can anyone clarify/explain the reason for this change? Thanks for the help.
Link?
 
#3
This certainly isn't new and isn't anything that the WDFW has any responsibility for. Taxonomists many years ago recognized that steelhead (and rainbow, which are the same species) are most closely related to Pacific salmon (and not to Atlantic Salmon, as some once thought). This goes for cutthroat trout, too (Onchorhynchus clarki).

Common names (eg, salmon, trout) are often much less precise indicators of relationship. You are still welcome to refer to rainbow trout (Onchorhynchus), brook trout (Salvelinus), and brown trout (Salmo) as 'trout,' for example. Thus, the fact that steelhead are in the same genus as the Pacific salmon species, that doesn't make them "salmon."

D
 
#4
I'm sure the state is only classifying them as salmon for clarification's sake. I think they're more salmon than trout anyway, as for Cutthroat like Richard said.
 
#5
A couple of friends at work discovered this, that Steelhead are now classified as the 6th species of Pacific Salmon, (Oncorhynchus Mykiss).
One of them gave me a printout from WDFW stating this new change, with photos/descriptions of each of the 6 species. Can anyone clarify/explain the reason for this change? Thanks for the help.
Actually if this it true it would be the seventh you forget Oncorhynchus masu.
 
#6
The taxonomic shift happened in the late 80s or early 90s. The reclassification for management purposes is different. Wolves and dogs are not only the same genus (Canis) but the same species, and they're obviously not managed the same despite genetics.

The reason for the management classification switch for steelhead has to do with the life history: being anadromous puts steelhead with salmon in regards to commercial fishing, ocean conditions, dams, etc. Non-anadromous rainbows share none of these concerns. Thus, making the connection between a steelhead's life history and the Pacific salmons' actually makes more sense, despite genetics saying they're the same as other 'bows.
 

nb_ken

Active Member
#7
I'm thinking that this might make it easier to classify steelhead as threatened or endangered.

Biologically, there really is no such thing as a steelhead. There is no genetic difference distinguishing a steelhead from a rainbow trout. All steelhead start out as rainbows, and it's the act of going to sea that makes them steelhead. But unlike salmon, not all rainbows are anadromous. The offspring of 2 rainbows might go to sea and become a steelhead. The offspring of 2 steelhead may never go to sea and remain a rainbow its entire life. There is no way to predict whether an individual fish will head for the salt.

When steelhead start appearing on threatened or endangered lists, people who have an economic interest in not protecting steelhead -- timber companies, power companies, ranchers, etc. -- point to this fact. A steelhead is a big rainbow trout. There are millions of rainbows out there. How can they be threatened?

Maybe by viewing steelhead as a separate, anadromous variety of trout more closely related to salmon, it might make it easier to offer them protection.
 
#8
Search before you post. I believe this has been covered before.

If you ever go to Salmon Days, you would see a steelhead next to all the salmon for a reason.
 

Smalma

Active Member
#9
Richard has it correct -
The placement of our "trout" species into the pacific salmon genus was endorsed by the American Fisheries Society.

However as far as the state is concern and the management of the concern species our traditional trout are still classified as game fish - The following are considered to be trout in the pamphlet cutthroat, rainbow, browns, brooks, kokanee, land-locked Atlantics, coho, and chinook, goldens, lakers, tigers, and grayling.

Bull torut/Dolly Varden are not considered to be "trout" in the pamphlet and any open seasons for them must be specifically listed.

While the salmon are classifeid as food fish -Chinook, coho, sockeye, chum, pinks, and sea-ging Atlantics.

Tight lines
Curt
 

Preston

Active Member
#10
The taxonomic revision was made in 1989 because of the morphological and genetic similarity of steelhead/rainbow and cutthroat to other members of the genus Oncorhynchus. As mentioned above, the use of common names like "salmon" and "trout" lack precision and can be misleading (think "silver trout", stocked in put-and-take lakes, which are actually sockeye or, occasionally, coho salmon). The change was based, according to Robert Behnke, "... on the fact that there is no reasonable doubt that the Pacific trout are more closely related to Pacific salmon than they are to the Atlantic salmon and brown trout ..."
 

Zen Piscator

Supporting wild steelhead, gravel to gravel.
#12
Did you also know that cutthroat and rainbow trout (goldens included) and actually all trout native to the western US are classified under the pacific salmon genus. Now you do.
 

gigharborflyfisher

Native Trout Hunter
#13
The decision to lump both cutthroat and steelhead in with Pacific Salmon in the genus Oncorhynchus is based on genetic relationships between the all of the western trout species, which are more closely related to each other than Atlantic Salmon or Brown trout.

However as calling the salmon is concerned they can just as easily be called Pacific Salmon or Pacific Trout. This diverse group includes all of the Pacific Salmon species (5), Rainbow /Redband/ Golden Trout (Steelhead is in this group) from Alaska to Mexico, Cutthroat (14 subspecies w/ 2 extinct), Mexican Golden Trout, Gila and Apache Trout.

The is a true 6th Pacific Salmon (spawns than dies; same basic life history as our 5 Pacific Salmon) in Asia called the Masu or Cherry salmon, which also has two freshwater subspecies the Amago (only pacifc trout with red body spots) and Yamame.