steelhead vs. Salmon holding water

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by bwtucker83, Feb 20, 2004.

  1. bwtucker83

    bwtucker83 Member

    Jan 29, 2003
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    Bellingham, WA, USA.
    Is it true to assume that steelhead hold in the same type of water and in the same places as salmon hold? So if I found a place where salmon were continually holding in the fall, does this mean that I can expect to find steelhead holding there as well?
  2. Rob Blomquist

    Rob Blomquist Formerly Tight Loops

    Mar 31, 2004
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    Mountlake Terrace, WA, USA.
    Not necessarily.

    In my experience, salmon like to hold in water that is slower than steelhead. They also seem to prefer pools.

    Steelhead like to be in the flow of the river. Generally speaking, it is a flow that is about walking pace. Or in a faster flow where they can get out of the current.

    Good places for steelies are slow runs, the heads of pools, tailouts of pools, and boulder runs.

    A buddy of mine cleans up fishing boulder runs that I consider to be too fast for steelies, and too hard to fish well. Its like every one he catches is from a place like that.
  3. Whenever the salmon are present I have still found
    the Steelhead around some type of structure and
    also behind the salmon - where fast water meets
    slow. The salmon seem to be all over the river and
    don't appear to be very focused on surroundings -
    just make it up river and spawn. Steelhead seem to
    be still thinking so to speak. Just my .02 cents
  4. Andy

    Andy Workin in a sweet mullet

    May 23, 2004
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    Columbia River Gorge
    I found that salmon hold in deeper slower water (in the lower part of the river), but as they move upstream and get more colorful, they start to hold more in "steelhead" type water. I found that when I ran into salmon holding in a pool, that if I fished up above them in shallower/faster water, I found steelhead, I would also find them below in the tailout, but mostly up above. But when you move into the upper river, the salmon start to hold in more traditional spots.

    I also found that different species hold in different types of water. Chums like to hold in shallower water compared to kings, silvers hold in deep water, but quickly move into shallower runs as they move upriver, and humpys hold everywhere, mainly cause where theres one, there are fifty.

    Thats my OPINION based on what I have seen. Other more experienced anglers may tear my opinion to shreds, but its just based on what I have seen and experienced. Good luck.
  5. jlange

    jlange New Member

    Jan 8, 2004
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    Renton, WA, USA.
    I've actually witnessed first hand steelhead following salmon up the river. The reason they do this is so they can eat the eggs of the spawning salmon. That is why salmon roe is one of the best methods for catching steelhead. I would agree with what has been said though, steelhead do prefer the faster moving water so they can eat food as it goes by, but when the salmon are spawning, they will follow them aroudn to snatch up their eggs when they can.


    "10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish." Happy fishing!
  6. chadk

    chadk Be the guide...

    May 10, 2004
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    Snohomish, WA.
    There are many variables to consider.

    Runs of fish in different rivers may show preference to water that is different than the other fish\rivers.

    River size. The smaller the river\stream, the more similar the holding water will be.

    Fish like cover\protection. Big fish will take the best (more protected) spots and fight off other fish who try to move in. Sometimes different species will fight for these 'best' spots. The bigger or more aggressive fish usually wins (no matter what species). These spots may be under logs\structure, deep channels\slots, depressions, deep pools, under turbid water (broken surface my offer the only protection in the area), and don't over look fast deep runs combined with big boulders (boulder gardens). The water at the surface is very fast, but down between boulders it offers plenty of resting spots for big fish to hide - having the best of broken surface cover, deeper water, and structure. The hard part is getting something in their strike zone...

    River flow, temp, visibilty are all factors as well.

    Considering traveling lanes as well (when the fish are on the move, what part of the river do they prefer).

    Consider 'taking' water as well. Once you find 'holding water', the next step is to determine the 'sweet spot' or 'taking water'. There may not be one, but often there is a part of the run\pool\slot where the fish are more aggressive. Feeding fish vs migrating fish may respond differently as well.

    But overall, just look for fish. If you spot them rolling, holding, jumping, then cast to them. If you don't see them, make some casts to 'fishy' looking spots and move on and cover lots of water until you find fish.
  7. FishPirate

    FishPirate Member

    Mar 7, 2004
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    Darrington, WA, USA.
    I agree with ChadK, it really depends on the size of the water you're fishing. The taking water is really what you're interested in anyway.

    If I approach a run with boulders and/or other structure, I'll look for the steelhead in the areas closest to the structure (first). In some cases, I can't get a fly to them, or the channel is too complex to try and drift a fly in front of them.

    The salmon are usually a little further downstream, as are the dollies. In general, I've found the pied piper effect to hold true for all anadromous species.

  8. Jerry Daschofsky

    Jerry Daschofsky Moderator Staff Member

    Feb 26, 2003
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    Graham, WA, USA.
    Home Page:
    I think it depends on the size and time the fish are in the river. I've found that all of my over 20# steelhead (and some of the 30# steelhead I've seen caught) were in deep pockets that you'd see king salmon holding in. In fact, one hole I love to fish for the big steelhead (won't name river or hole lol) is great king water (have pulled lots of kings out of their too). But really depends on the river. The Wynoochee is completely a "non typical" fly water river. You drag steelhead out of holes you'd only think trout would hang out in (less then 1' of water).

    I've caught steelhead in about any structure/type of water. I just think if they find a place they can hole up, they'll do it. Same thing with salmon. Of course they have holes of choice they like to hole up in. But, have caught some big kings in pockets that I assumed only small silvers would be hanging out.