my guess would be 5 years, maybe 6...looks more like a lake fish rather than a river fish. 7-8 months of heavy flows a year....with a big fat belly....could it have escaped from a lake near by?
TM, I think an escaped steelhead would have had the urge to jump the falls...heading west. And I am pretty sure that the genetics of steelhead don't cause them to get bigger than riverine bows, rather its food supply. More yummys in da ocean.
The fins look to be in good shape, so if it was an escapee, and therefore hatchery origin, it looks to have been away from the concrete for a few years.
My guess is its a damn nice, damn big native rainbow! A fish of a lifetime for that river. Catching that fish is rarer than catching a 50 pound king or a 20 pound steelhead!
An exceptional fish for the Snoqualmie Forks for sure!!
Based on the ages I have seen on western Washington resident rainbows that fish could be any where from 6 to 10 years old. More likely 10 years od than 6 unless it was one of those lucky fish that found some exceptional food sources.
BTW - Looking at the tail fin rays I doubt the fish has never seen a hatchery.
I judged fish growth by head size. If they have slower growth the head is usually bigger. If they have a smaller head and bigger body it usually indicates fast growth. This can be a good way to indicate age. It has a fairly normal head size. I am surprise that a fish that large was in the system above the Falls, which we all know eliminates steelhead, but it does look like a steelhead. Just a very pretty fish and very rare indeed.
Awesome fish. Never caught anything like that myself on the SF great job. About a month ago, I ran into an older gentleman and his grandson higher up on the SF and he reported to me that 3-4 years ago he caught a 23" fish on the MF down near North Bend somewhere. With the fish you caught, that's entirely possible. He's a North Bend native and he also gave me a good history lesson about the SF/MF and surrounding area.
I caught this fish today on the S. Fork of the Snoqualmie River, east of North Bend. Most fish I catch on this river are between 6" - 10", thus this guy caught me by surprise. This rainbow was a legit 20". I am wondering, how long would it take to grow to this size, on this body of water?