Watch out for steelhead redds while wading


Active Member
Thought I'd spin this thread off into its own from previous semi-related-- How to avoid stepping in redds? Know what to look for, and what places in the river/pools are likely to have redds. I'm no fish bio, and maybe a pro will help out here, but here what I look for:

- Tailouts, softer flows near shore, and side channels, with depressions made in pebble to small stone sized river substrate, cleared of sand, indicating fanning and cleaning by fish.

- Any fish holding in exposed/shallow water, are likely guarding redds, if they spook but return quickly to a spot similar to above, leave them alone.

- Redds vary in size, but most I see are around 3x3ft, maybe 6inches to 1 ft deep or so. Like the size of those snow slide discs/sleds.

Anyone with tips for conscientious wading please follow up...

We're so lucky to enjoy native steelhead in WA, anything and everything to ensure their success and rebound is a "step" in the right direction -- Pun intended. :)

Found a few photos:
Clearing a redd
clean of silt with a slight depression
multiple redds
Issaquah Creek steelhead on redd (note clean stones)

Old Man

Just an Old Man
I used to know it all---but now that I'm older I seem to forget it all.

I know that this info is all well and good. But on the same note darn near all the fish the seem to spawn in these rivers,stream,creeks seem to spawn in the same places except at different times of the year. I've seen Chums spawning and later in the year you'll see a different spawning fish in the same spot. So if you avoid walking on steelhead redds you are sure to be walking on some other redds of other fish.You just can't seem to miss them.

I'll give you a for instant. I was fishing this one spot on the N/Stilly and I always used to wade thru this one large but shallow pool. Not really paying to much attention to where I was walking. But later in the year when parts of the river dried up due to summer lows,you could see where all the fish had come out of the redds. Now when ever I come upon that spot I try to skirt it if I can.But it seem like everbody and his brother still wade thru that spot.


Mike Etgen

Not Quite A Luddite, But Can See One From Here

Great information. Thanks for raising the subject and giving all of us something to be more aware of. Great photos, by the way!



Active Member
A few more notes from a local fish biologist:

"ID and avoiding redds - Steelhead redds in our larger rivers are typcially 3 to 6 feet wide and 6 to 20 feet long and in 1 to 3 feet of water. When new they typcially have a contrasting color than the surrounding gravel. In the process of digging the redd the distrubed stones are turned over so they are lighter colored than the algae covered stones. This contrasting color typcially last 2 to 6 weeks depending on the weather and stream flows On the upstream end of the redds there will be a pit or depression 6 to 12 inches deep. The redds are typically are found in tail outs, along the lower ends of bars, or on points along the bar. In almost every case redds are downstream of steelhead holding water so unless targeting the spawning fish there really isn't any need to be steelhead fishing in that area. If by chance a wading angler should encounter a redd as he/she is fishing downstream - usually by stepping into the pit, they should immediately step back upstream and look closely look at the redd(s) and map a path safely around them without walking on the redds. There is a several week period after spawnig the developing embryo is quite fragile and joustling off the stones can cause mortalities. Stepping in the pit usually doesn't do damage - the eggs are found downstream of the pit in the gravel pile (tailspill). The pit is from the last digging the female has done to bury the spawned eggs just below (downstream) of the pit. The most common time that anglers might encounter redds is while wading tailouts, be especially careful in side channels."
Nailknot, Thanks for the great post!! I was getting ready to ask for just this info. I'm an inplant from NC and I'm just now trying to put together a steelheading outfit so I can try to catch fish that don't bite... Anyways, very informative and I really appreciate the pics! :beer2


Active Member
Excellent topic! We can all take a moment to learn something about Redds. very, very important. Lets all make an effort, it's the least we can do for are steelhead(and Salmon).:thumb YT
Some states, mostly in the east and England, forbid anglers to enter the water. This not only avoids damage to the redds, but it helps preserve aquatic life of all types, bugs, hellgramites, and such.
This would be possible but would make the sport much more difficult for flyfishers. Chuck and ducks can toss their baits almost anywhere; fly guys need special water and also room for a back cast. Roll casts or spey casts might work in certain places.
Watch out spey boys; here comes everybody.:7
P.S. Fab. shots, way to go, that's definitly a Chinook and those gravel shots look like redds to me. Keep off of this stuff everybody.


Active Member
Just wanted to clarify that I didn't take the above photos- I found them while searching the net and included them as a reference. Indeed looks like a chinook in the bottom photo!

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