The Steelhead is an interesting species of fish. Steelhead are anadromous, which means that the fry are hatched in eggs in fresh water, and then grow in size in that fresh water before swimming downstream to the ocean, and the fish will spend anywhere from one to three years in the ocean eating squid, until it is time for the fish to return to its native river to spawn. Unlike the Salmon, however, the Steelhead will survive the spawn and can make the journey back into the ocean. Scientists who work to improve the numbers of wild Steelhead have even developed tactics to catch spawning bucks and transport the caught fish back downstream, where it ascends the river for a second or even third time, to fertilize eggs.
Steelhead swim up watersheds on the west coast and even as far inland as Idaho. Steelhead are separated into two distinct species: summer run Steelhead and winter run Steelhead. A summer run Steelhead will swim into its native water in the late months of summer and spawn into the late fall. The summer run Steelhead also makes the longest journey to spawn, while the winter run fish only spawns in coastal streams and may only travel short distances that can range from one hundred feet to thirty miles.
The rivers systems that these fish call home, from the Salmon River and the Frank Church Wilderness of Idaho to the remote coastal rivers of British Columbia and western Washington, can be remote and anglers should be prepared for the possible challenges that can come from fishing in a remote area.
A popular river for fishing summer run steelhead is the Clearwater River in Idaho. The Steelhead will begin to arrive in the river in the summer months, and when the fall temperatures drop, the fish can be found up the entire river system. Anglers adorned in both spin and fly tackle will run their lures through the deep holes and riffles. Anglers driving jet boats and anglers rowing drift boats will share the same waterway. And while the Clearwater is not a place for complete solitude, the immense forest surrounding the river is, and black bears, elk, and deer can be seen walking the tree line above the river.
As always, when visiting one of our fantastic National Parks or enjoying the great outdoors, please be sure to bring along your UDAP Bear Spray.