Trout in the Ballard locks fish ladder...


Active Member
I visited the Ballard locks this afternoon to check out the Sockeye run- wow! Absolutely full of fish. Besides the hundreds of Sockeye, and a few nice Chinook, I noticed a number of 6-12 inch Rainbow (or what sure appear to be Rainbows) holding behind the salmon. Are these Steelhead heading out, immatures following along for a meal (they were feeding actively), resident young sea-runs hanging in the estuary, jacks returning, or..?


New Member
I'd say they were resident bows, I've seen dollies follow sockeyes even though they are not spawning, the salmon kick up nymphs and stuff, I'd say the bow wait for the salmon and some get stuck in the locks and use the ladder to get back up.
Tight Lines From Alaska


Active Member
I would imagine that they were steelhead smolts. Did they look like smolts (silvery, lacking parr marks)? The size and the time of the year would be about right. In the late summer and fall you can sometimes see some really nice homeward-bound sea-run cutthroat sharing space in the viewing window with the salmon.
I live in Ballard and I saw this "trout" too. They are silver, heavily spotted and no parr marks, size between 8" and 11". What would be the reason to go upstream for steelhead smolts? I thought they should go in opposite direction. or maybe they are young searun cutts?


Active Member
Hi Vic_sea- yeah- what you said- very silver, heavily spotted, clear fins, 8-11 inches. Could be Cutts but for some reason they looked Rainbow-esque to me. I have no idea though. They were certainly active. Cutts would make sense- hanging out in the salt chuck/ fresh and following the Sockeye migration for stirred up goodies. They didn't seem to be moving up, just hanging around. I'm guessing if there were a number in the viewing area there are a lot more on both sides of the ladder. I saw a Sockeye clear at least 6' up out of the ladder, seemed to be trying to jump onto the walkway above the ladder- he slammed hard on one of the cement barriers and left a lot of silver scales- but man what a leap! Really cool to see those fish in an urban setting. I think you might be right about young Cutts Vic- seems to add up.


AKA Beadhead
Only you know what you saw......Actually you will often see Sea Run Cutts in there when the salmon are running. They hang out behind the salmon and pick up sea lice that fall off the salmon when they 1st hit the fresh water. Pretty cool to watch them feed like that, kind of like a mid water hatch.



Active Member
A great way to fish in the summer and fall is to fish for cuts behind pods of salmon. They hang out below the salmon catching anything kicked up by the salmon moving or spawning. They will also aggressively feed on the eggs as the salmon spawn. You can use a nymph or egg pattern. Generally, I use a nymph on a circle hook so I don't catch the back of the salmon on a swing behind them. You can also use a heavily weighted nymph to cast above the salmon and drift it under them.


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