June 14, 2023
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Learn » Stocked Strains » Steelhead

Origin: While steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are the same species as freshwater rainbow trout, these fish will actually spend a portion of their life cycle in the ocean. Some steelhead, mostly females, will also spawn in successive years. An individual fish can live up to nine years. Steelhead adults are collected from various Lower Mainland rivers, and are spawned at the Fraser Valley Trout Hatchery.

Habitat: There are two distinct runs of steelhead. Summer-run steelhead return from the ocean from April to October, and spawn in the spring. Winter-run steelhead enter rivers from November to May, and spawn soon after. Both types of steelhead can be present in the same river. As the fry emerge in late spring, they migrate to cool, faster flowing, well-oxygenated water. Older juveniles tend to inhabit areas of a stream that provide well-oxygenated water, and protection from predators. Upon reaching the ocean, steelhead move rapidly offshore, and migrate along the coast from northern California to the Gulf of Alaska while feeding on various baitfish.

Description: Steelhead have the same general appearance as rainbow trout. When adult steelhead begin migrating into freshwater to spawn, they are typically silver with heavy spotting above the lateral line. They will begin to develop blue-olive green colouration with a pink hue that runs from the gill plate to the tail, which will turn dark red as they approach spawning. Steelhead are distinguished by their streamlined body shape and large square caudal fin, which is only mildly forked. Steelhead can grow quite large, in rare cases reaching as much as 18 kilograms.

Fishing: Due to their strength, beauty, and acrobatic performances, steelhead are considered one of the top freshwater game fish in North America. They can be targeted with a variety of fishing gear that includes flies, spoons, spinners, jigs, and bait. These fish can be elusive and hard to catch. Landing a steelhead is an experience that isn’t soon forgotten.