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14" Steelhead caught today...has it gone to the ocean yet?

2952 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Valley Fly Nut
Hi, I caught a pretty but little steelhead today. Measured 14" and was a hatchery fish. Is this a parr, returned in its first year or is it a very mature smolt not yet gone out? It was on the Vedder River in BC, we don't typically have resident rainbow trout in the lower river.

Thanks for your reply...

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This question comes up a lot. w/o a photo it is tough to guess. With a photo, you can guess, but correctly? I usually base my guess on the fish's condition. Brightness, transluscence, and thicker fish as signs of ocean travel.

I have a pet theory: all rivers with summer steelhead have at least some component of a half-pounder life history, provided the halfpounders can reach suitable spawning grounds. Got this WAG because I've found them on rivers that aren't known to support them.

The best way to deal with this in the future is to remove a scale and either learn to read it yourself, or send it to your local fish biologist
It could have been a jack steelhead. Only spent a little time out in the salt and come back. I got one of these a couple of years ago so it does happen.

Sounds like a jack (or half-pounder) steelhead to me that has only been out to salt for a few months. I've caught a few wild ones of them (one so bright it still had sea lice on it) in Washington's Sol Duc River in late January to mid-February.
14 inch Steelie

Knowing the area you fish I wold guess it is a residulized Steelie smolt released this spring.

Tayside said:
Knowing the area you fish I wold guess it is a residulized Steelie smolt released this spring.

I would think Tayside has the right idea
ah yes, hatchery fish do have a tendency to residualize, so that makes sense

That happens a lot on the Snake, where they do not make the barge downstream and there isn't enough flow to get them through the dams in time.

Do they ever make it the next year?
Thanks Ian, Caught it just below the parking lot at Peach...nice little steelhead run there...a couple of fuzzy chum still swimming about. I still have your bobbins!!!

It was a fat little thing, though if it was a lingering smolt from the spring it was probably gorging on fish eggs. Bright silver, spots only apparent on the upper half. When it first jumped I thought I had a small coho, but it was definitely a rainbow...have to carry the camera next time.


Jeremy there is always a few fish left behnd every year and at this time they fatten up on eggs and flesh. In the next couple of weeks you will be able to get Bull trout to ten pounds and steelies in that same run. By any chance did you catch it using your new two hander.

Sharp Teeth?

My experience with Half-pounders vs. lazy travelers (those yet migrate out to sea) is the teeth are much sharper. Run your finger on the jaw line and check for those nasty sharp teeth. It is a good indicator on sea travel.

Yup, was practicing casting with the tips...took some lessons a few weeks ago. Everything seems to be coming together! Caught it halfway down the run in about 3 feet of water at the end of the swing.
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