Rainbow Trout (Steelhead) Fishing

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead) Fishing

Top Rainbow Trout (Steelhead) Fishing Destinations

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)

Rainbow Trout (Steelhead)
  • Size 1 to 20lbs
  • Food Value Excellent
  • Game Qualities Good
  • Habitats River, Lake, Inshore

(Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Rainbow Trout and their larger forms, Steelhead, are freshwater and oceanic fish from the Salmonidae family. They are some of the most popular river/lake game of the North American west coast.

Rainbow Trout hatch in fast rivers and streams with gravel beds. Some will stay in this fresh water, while others will migrate to the ocean, grow larger and lose some of the "rainbow" coloration, becoming more silver - these are Steelhead Trout.

Adult Steelhead migrate long distances from marine to freshwater environments to spawn; unlike other Pacific Salmon, they can reproduce multiple times. Rainbow Trout that were introduced to the Great Lakes and reproduce in their adjourning waters developed into Steelhead as well.

Rainbow Trout catch and release

The distinct pinkish coloration of the Rainbow Trout. Caught with Steelhead Fishing Vancouver Island in Shawnigan Lake, BC

How big

Freshwater Rainbow Trout average between 1 and 5lbs, whereas brackish and saltwater Steelhead are much larger and commonly caught up to 20lbs.

When & Where

Steelhead are native to the Pacific Northwest and range from Kamchatka in Russia, across the Aleutian Islands, coastal Alaska, British Columbia and the US West Coast south to Durango, Mexico. Rainbow Trout natively inhabit inland freshwaters up to central Alberta (Canada), Nevada, Idaho and western Texas. The species has been introduced throughout southern Canada, the Great Lakes and rivers and streams of the central USA, as well as the rest of the world.

Steelhead that mature in freshwaters move upstream between May and October, prepare for reproduction during the following several months and spawn there. Those that mature in oceans enter freshwaters between November and April, ready to spawn. The former are referred to as summer-run and the latter as winter-run Steelhead.

How to catch

Rainbow Trout and Steelhead will take a variety of lures and bait. The most popular fishing technique is bobber/float fishing with a jig or bait such as worms, prawns, crayfish tails, sand shrimp or, their favorite, cured fish eggs. Spinners and spoons are another option. All of these can be drift fished or cast, wiht backtrolling plugs or bait/diver combos being effective as well.

The species is very grateful to target on the fly - large, vigorous flies rigged on a sinking line are some anglers' favorite means of targeting them.

Angler with steelhead in a stream

A nice sized Steelhead landed with A Great Addiction Guide Service out of Lowell, MI

Good to eat?

Flesh of tremendous quality. Can be orange, pink or white depending on their nutrition and habitat.

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