steelhead and water temps.

Discussion in 'Spey Clave' started by Panhandle, Dec 1, 2008.

  1. Will Atlas

    Will Atlas Guest

    gorgeous fish boys. They are more steelhead than some of the weakling hatchery strains being dumped into our local rivers. Still, nothing compares to a chrome wild steelhead, straight from the pacific ocean.

    For those interested in the McMillan article about water temps it can be found in the most recent addition of fly fishing and tying journal. Its a good read, and some cool photos. Amazing that he was able to catch winter fish skating every year.

    Will
     
  2. Steelie Mike

    Steelie Mike Active Member

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    Do not get offended you GL guys. You catch some beautiful fish and even the ocean run fish I catch locally get put down by the guys on the other side of the state. I would love to compare your steel trouts to steelhead, but I have got the chance yet. Looking forward to it.

    I have heard and seem too many guys fishing floats and indicators in cold water that have had their floats taken down by steelhead to know that steelhead will move to a fly on top in cold water conditions. The biggest problem with steelheading is finding fish and then find that one or two fish that are players. Gotta love the chase!
     
  3. Paul Huffman

    Paul Huffman Driven by irrational exuberance.

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    I read that Fly Tying Journal by McMillan too. What I got out of it was maybe water clarity is another important factor. The percentage of steelhead taken on floating lines decreased with decreasing temperature, but then increased at the coldest temperatures, those cold winter days that are so cold the water gets low and clear.
     
  4. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    So... The saltwater makes the fish a steelhead. I tend to agree, yet what would we call a cowlitz, skamania, rogue, etc. steelhead that is transplanted into the great lakes and naturally reproduces? Except for small changes in the diet and the lack of organ function to excrete excess salt, it still lives in an enormous body of water and runs up rivers to reproduce.....
    Most of our fish are hatchery origin, much like yours, but we do have wild fish (though not native) that remain unchanged since the late 1800s...
    What if I take a bunch of our 'lake-run rainbows' and stick them in a Columbia tributary? If they then run to the sea are they steelhead? (even if they miss the urban graffiti and shopping carts in the water...)

    Another interesting thought is to think of all cutthroat and rainbows as land-locked fish if they don't live in the ocean or run to it. I think science has proven fairly that all fish originally lived in the sea, even freshwater fish. Remember we all are living in a single second of a ticking clock in billions of years of evolution.

    I am not trying to be provocative at all, just musing on the endless diversity of nature.
    And, by the way, you guys are very lucky to have a board like this, with all the active and knowledgeable participants. I am enjoying immensely reading and following all the thoughts and writings. Our equivalent board is unbelievable lame in comparison.

    Cheers,
    Erik

    P.S. Hey Adam, I enjoyed meeting you this year on the CW.
     
  5. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

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    Erik F Helm,

    I am just fucking with you GL guys. Its all good. I wouldn't mind catching them either. But to answer your question, in my eyes if you took GL lake-run bows and put them in the columbia than yes most of the progeny would be steelhead when they smolt and out-migrate, but invariably some of those progeny will residualize and than they would be rainbows. We just create labels for our own sake, fish do what they do.
     
  6. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    Amen Ryan, trust me, if I had the chance to fish for wild steelhead more than a couple of weeks a year I would be there. There is nothing like a wild fish!
    Except for that fifteen pound chrome filly I hooked in the Milwaukee and.... well, thats another story.

    I envy you guys.

    Check out my blog, more fun and interesting stuff there.
    classicangler.blogspot.com

    Regards,
    Erik
     
  7. Permaskunk

    Permaskunk New Member

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    Sorry Ryan, but the difference between a Rainbow and a Steelhead is not THE OCEAN. It's "Smoltification". The process by which their bodies prepare for the salt. Whether or not they need it. Scientific study shows that this same Smoltification occurs in wild GL Steelhead. Sorry about that. :beathead:
     
  8. Ryan Nathe

    Ryan Nathe Member

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    Permaskunk, you can make up definitions if you want, but Steelhead are anadromous, which means they live part of their lives in saltwater. What you have are adfluvial trout not anadromous steelhead.

    If you are interested I read a recent article that stated that one of the draw-backs of the dams in the columbia river is that it slows down outstream migration so that some of the smolts revert and become residents. So does that make them "freshwater" steelhead or resident trout?
     
  9. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    I think its nuts to call great lakes adfluvial rainbows steelhead simply because catching a 26" steelhead is weaksauce whereas a 26" rainbow is badass. Maybe midwestern anglers suck balls at dickwaving....


    And the answer is if the fish doesn't go into the salt its not a steelhead its a resident.
     
  10. Permaskunk

    Permaskunk New Member

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    :confused:

    Oops. I guess I hurt AK's ego. Sorry about that.

    Opinions on this well hashed subject obviously differ. Do a little scientific reading and you'll find that the genetics, and life cycle of Steelhead in the East is similar to Steelhead in the West. With the obvious difference being the salt.

    That being said, does the salt make a steelhead different? Likely. Does the salt make the steelhead a better fighter? Questionable.
    Does the saltwater feeding opportunities make them bigger? Definitely.
     
  11. shotgunner

    shotgunner Anywhere ~ Anytime

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    I aint hungry enough to tackle a dead horse.... Yet :) Back to the O.P. Do you feel that our fish [G.L.] would behave differently in the same cold water temps as yours? [PNW]

    Edit: Directed to all, not the original poster exclusive.
     
  12. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

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    Water temps are water temps, it’s not as though 34f there is any different than 34f here. They would certainly behave differently in this ecolosystem and vice versa.
     
  13. Erik F. Helm

    Erik F. Helm Frozen in the river, speyrod in hand

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    Hard question to answer. What I know comes secondhand since I have only chased summer-runs in WA, OR, and ID. From some of the campfire chat it would seem that if water conditions are good, PNW steelhead will rise and hit flies such as hairwings only a couple of inches under the surface in quite cold conditions. Some guys I know will only fish a dry line for them even in the worst conditions. I always thought that GL 'steel-rainbow-whatever head' were more aggressive in colder water than PNW fish simply because they live in lakes such as Superior which seldom get above 40 degrees on a hot July day, but I have no evidence to back this up.
    But, the differences between the fish are based on our observations, which can be less than scientific. For example. For a long time it was thought that GL 'steel-rainbow-whatever head' in Michigan would not take a swung fly. Some famous steelhead fishermen who moved to the PNW made note of this. They exclaimed how different PNW steelhead were from GL 'steel-rainbow-whatever head'. But, they were dead wrong. They were not trying hard enough, didn't give it enough time, or whatever. Fishermen on Wisconsin's Bois Brule Laughed at anyone not using nymphs or yarn. Nobody thought they would take a swung fly, but then someone tried it and WHAM! fish on! Then nobody thought GL 'steel-rainbow-whatever head' would rise to take a skater. Myself and others have debunked that myth too.

    Once when fishing in Washington, the river we were fishing went off due to glacial milk. The locals and guides were sitting in camp getting drunk and told us that fishing would be futile until the water cleared. The fish wouldn't be able to see our flies. We looked at the water, and said 'Man, that still looks better than some of the muddy and silty chocolate milk we have in Wisconsin. We fished anyway, and one of us hooked a fish. We just had confidence and didn't know any better.
    The first time I fished in WA, I fished the Klick. My only experience with steelhead was fishing for 'steel-rainbow-whatever head' on the Milwaukee river. I fished an intermediate sinktip with hairwings. After catching 5 or 6 fish, I learned from the experts on that river that were camped next to me that that setup would never work there....I would have to use big flies and category 6 tips. I just did it because I was ignorant, and I caught fish. On a run in that river I hooked fish in a certain place. When one of the experts fished it with my buddy, he pointed out the sweet spot. "Erik caught fish way at the bottom" my friend said, only to be told that nobody ever catches anything down there...
    Hmmm.

    I know this rambled about, but I guess my opinion is that the more we look at it the more similarities we find between PNW steelhead and GL 'steel-rainbow-whatever head'.

    I for one am just glad that once in a long while, one will eat my fly...:)
     
  14. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    hey I dodn't really care that much what you call em, I'll just point out that up here we don't call lake illiamna rainbows steelhead even though by great lakes defintion they are totally steelhead, they spend most of their lives in a really really big lake with lots of food and come up the streams in the fall stay there, spawn in the spring and go back to the lake for the summer, also they look like this:
    [​IMG]

    I'm sure great lakes bows fight good and are fun to catch but they aren't steelhead. I'm of the opinion that if you took resident rainbows and stocked them in a fairly sterile river with access to the ocean they will eventually become steelhead and if you put steelhead into a productive river a bunch of them will stick around and continue to be rainbows, if that is the case (although I don't have any data to back that up so I may be pissing into the wind) then how do we tell steelhead from rainbows? Are the 8 inch rainbows I catch that are genetically steelhead steelhead or rainbows? They are of course rainbows, what about the odd steelhead caught on the naknek which come from rainbow genetics is that a rainbow because of its genetics? of course not its a steelhead, remember the genetics of rainbows and steelhead are close enough that they are the same species, so how do we tell them apart? Simple, the ones that spend time in salt water are steelhead and the ones that spend their entire life in freshwater are rainbows, the great lakes are freshwater therefore great lake fish are technically adfluvial rainbows.

    Now what you call them is really up to you I'm just saying if I were to brag on the internet about catching a 28 inch O. mykiss I would call it a rainbow and not a steelhead because a 28 inch steelhead is nowhere near as cool as a 28" rainbow...

    I haven't caught a 28" rainbow in my life but I've caught a 36" steelhead...
     
  15. Panhandle

    Panhandle Active Member

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    What does the ocean have to do with this whole argument? There has to be something genetically and behaviorally different between true ocean fish and lake fish. The contrast, I assume, is the difference between a steelhead and a true trout. Though they follow the same instinctual spawning path, the ocean has to be the dominating factor between the two and what dissiminates a steelhead from trout. I'm not dissing GL steelehad, in fact I plan to come over there some day and fish for them, but I could never consider them true steelhead. What does this have to do with water temps? I don't know, but none of these threads stay on track.