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STEELHEAD TROUT - SALMO GAIRDNFRI OR SALMO MYKISS

The magnificent steelhead, a sea run rainbow trout obtaining weights ranging over 20lbs. are considered to be one of the most prized catches in all freshwater fishing. Steelhead are well known for their explosive fighting ability often displaying numerous aerobatic leaps from the fast flowing rivers they return to. When steelhead are landed, and many are not, the sheer beauty of these wonderfully marked fish with all the black spots is enough to take your breath away.


Names: Steelhead, steelhead trout, ironhead, steelie.
Bright steelhead refers to fish newly arrived from the ocean into the river, dark steelhead refers to fish close to or actually spawning, fall back or kelt refers to post spawners.


Identification: Bright (ocean phase or newly arrived in fresh water) steelhead are characterized by a bluish gray back and upper sides with a crisp demarcation between the bright silvery sides. The upper head, back, sides, tail fin and upper fins are profusely speckled with small black spots. The interior of the mouth gum line, tongue, roof is white, which distinguishes it from chinook which feature a black interior mouth, and from coho, which exhibit a grayish colored interior. After some days in the river system the fish develop a slight pink tinge on the gillplate which becomes more distinct as the days pass. At this point the males develop a red lateral stripe, reddish gillcovers and a duller hued to olivaceous colored back. The females at the same time are less brilliantly marked, showing primarily pinkish to reddish gillcovers and a pinkish lateral stripe. The male steelhead's head is longer than the females, with a longer (in advanced spawners) hooked jaw line. As the fish draw nearer to actual spawning time, the colors become much darker in the males and more uneven in the females, at which time they are referred to as dark fish. After spawning, the steelhead loses its dark coloration and becomes dull grayish on the sides, dark gray- ish on the back, and gaunt looking with worn ventral and lower tail fins. 

Quick Identification: Square tail, black spots on entire tail, white mouth and gums.

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