steelhead movements

I was hoping for a little discussion here – as always, my thoughts turned to steelhead, and I couldn’t help wondering how they move throughout the day. I’m not talking about where to find them or what routes they follow, more concerned with how rapidly they move up rivers. I was thinking about it because I oftentimes fish a run or hole or what have you, and move after either hooking into a fish or working the water thoroughly. But I always wonder how often new fish move into a body of water. I have watched them throughout the day when I can, and some seem to creep their way up stream while others seem to stay put throughout the day. I get the feeling they take a lot of ground at night and hold most of the day. Just thoughts, you guys?:hmmm
I don't know the answer to your question but I read where steelhead will move up to 30 miles in a day if conditions are good.


Banned or Parked
There's definitely more movement going on at night. It's much safer for the fish, especially when they have to pass through shallow or otherwise exposed sections of water. During low water conditions I've seen fish that will move from the bottom of pool to the top throughout the course of the day, but then just drop back to the bottom and do it all over again. By the next day however, they were long gone.


Active Member
Yes to the night movements. I worked in Alaska counting Salmon returns in NW rivers. Migration would begin in late afternoon and peak at about 1AM. Even above the artic circle, midnight sun kinda thing. By 6 am there would be no movement upstream.

I don't know specificly about steel head movements but I would suspect the same activity because of predators.


Active Member
Have heard about much night movement as well. Also during periods of high off-color water, fish will move until the water begins to drop. I think it depends some on how close they are to their destination.
I've read and heard that certain holes, holding waters what have you see fish more frequently than others. There are some spots in a river that will just attract fish.
I regularly fish a couple of areas in a certain river that just seem to produce fish. But can move a mile or 5 up stream and occasionaly hook up.


That's all the change I have,
darrin ><>
I read a report last year where they tagged a few dozen sh with tracking devices. Fish were all over the place, some of the bigger males cruising down the river 15-30 miles and back up a few times in a week. Most traveling done during low light or colored water.

I'll dig around some boxes and see if i can't scan it.


Workin in a sweet mullet
The biologists I talked to out on the Hoh said that they on average will move 10 miles a day. At least thats where you need to plan on fishing if you are to take the netting schedule into account. I.E. if they net on Wednesday, then focus on the first 10 miles above the nets on Thursday.

But I dont necessarily agree with that, because I followed the same pod of summer runs up a long run on the Stilly this summer, it took them almost a week to move up 1000 yards. Fished them every day, after 4 or 5 days they moved in the top of the run where I could get a really good cast to them, and I hooked up and lost one, then the next day I caught one in the same spot and the next day after that they were gone. I walked all over that river for miles trying to find them again and I never did, so they may have just bolted and gone the 10 miles up to Deer Creek in that next day or two.
Experiences of over fifty years with them:
1.I have seen them move about in a long pool all day long but not leave it. (Best example of this is the pool in back of Kamp Kalama.
2.I never failed when I was younger to be on the water before light with fly in hand. There would be shouts of "fish on" every now and again until about two hours after light, then nothing.
3.Tides have a lot to do with it as well as good ocean conditions. High flood, light seas as best for movement into the the river.
4.I have been fishing with a lot of guys around and and not much going on. Then all hell would break loose as if a school had just pulled in. I have some vivid memories of this happening many times in the old days.
5.Never had much luck around dark and I don't feel it's worth it to hang around.
6.I have seen fish jumping up through rapids but rarely so.
7.I have always thought that fish which are not moving will not bite. But I'm not very sure of this and only have a few examples to back me up.
Bob, the So long, the so little really learned.
It also depends if the fish are summer or winter runs as they behave differently. Winter runs will spawn weeks after entering a river while summers will hang out in the rivers for at least 4-5 months before they get down to business. This behavior affords summer fish to be a little more relaxed in their upstream migration as opposed to winter fish who shoot right through the system.



Good input Sean. I agree that this makes a big difference. Another factor is wild v. hatchery. Winter hatchery are known for shooting right up to the terminal areas where the wild fish will spread out throughout the system and seem to take their time doing so. Having said that, I have caught April fish far upriver that still had sea lice.

Never mind you over 30 or 40 in a day though.;-) ;-)

Sharp Steelie

Got to agree with both Sean and Sinktip - one thing
really interesting that I have learned with summer
runs is they will go all over the place and not
always to their home rivers. Landed fish with Oregon
tags, fish that later found out were from Idaho in
Washington rivers. Pretty sure it has something to
do with water temperature. Just my .02 cents worth.:p
Wow, much of this conflicts what I have heard on other rivers, but I have not read any of this research for myself so who knows. The Deschutes for instance; at Sherar's falls there is a fish gate where they have been counting fish passage for years. They always say down there that the vast majority of fish movement comes between 10:30 and 3:00 pm, in broad daylight. I've also heard of other fish counting stations at dams where they stopped paying people to watch during night hours, etc., because something like less than 5% of the fish passed in off hours.

A really good guide I know on the Ronde says the same thing, in that the only time the fish move at night is during a full moon.

I definitely agree that long-time stationary fish are less likely to bite, but I have found that on some rivers the fish grab like crazy when they are on the move (Dean) but have not found that to be the case elsewhere (Skykomish).

I've also had good luck right at dusk many times (including this past weekend in Oregon, where we got three grabs in the last ten mins of daylight) but I don't think there is much of a pattern there. Fresh fish are fresh fish, whether it is 7 am or 7 pm.


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