Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THE OUTDOORS DIGEST | FIELD GUIDE

Steelhead

November 22, 2005

[ONCORHYNCHUS MYKISS]

What is a steelhead? Though legendary among anglers along the California coast for its elusive nature and fierce runs when hooked, the steelhead is hard to categorize. Technically, the steelhead is a rainbow trout that migrates to the ocean. The problem with this definition is that a steelhead readily spends the first one to three years of its life in fresh water, or it may travel to the ocean when half grown, then return and spend the rest of its life in fresh water, or it may become trapped behind obstacles in a river and never reach the ocean. The "typical" winter-run steelhead spends several years in salt water, then one November heads for the mouth of its home stream to wait for the first hard rain. The rain is a cue to move upstream toward its spawning grounds. At some river mouths the steelhead must wait until the river rises enough to wash out the sandbars that form during summer.

NATURAL HISTORY

The steelhead has a lot in common with salmon, but it is distinct in having the ability to return to the ocean after spawning. Some manage to make this round trip several times in their lives.

KEY CHARACTERISTICS

A silvery salmon-like fish with small, round black spots on its back; the largest on record approach 30 pounds, but most big ones today are half that weight.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|