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Thread: Kenai Steelhead

  1. #1
    Member hoose35's Avatar
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    Default Kenai Steelhead

    How many people have caught a steelhead on the kenai river?

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    Member alaskachuck's Avatar
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    That debate has being going on for a while. On the chum post it shows where steelies have made thier way to funny river. Im sure there are a few but there are as many opinions on this subject as there are fishermen in alaska
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    I suspect that I have, but like most people, I can't say for sure.
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    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    I have been accused of this by a former Clearwater guide, but I am pretty sure the fish was local since it looks like all the other big fish my buddy has caught.

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    Member spoiled one's Avatar
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    I have a friend that has a place on the river just below the Moose on the Funny River side. They caught what they assumed was a steelie several years back. It was covered in sea lice. Has there been any evidence of the resident bows heading out to the salt?
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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    hmmm... only one way I can see to settle this.

    If anyone catches a fish that might be a steelhead, bonk it between the eyes and take it to the nearest F&G office for further analysis.
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    Seen one caught from the bank at Eagle Rock back in 1982 while plunking for silvers in August.

    Fellow who caught it thought it was the funniest snakiest lookin' silver he'd ever seen.

    It was definitely a steelhead.

    No pic to share... too bad it was before the digital age.
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    I caught one near the Crossover at the end of August. I think it was three years ago. I asked a guy from F&G about this and he said they weren't native but with flowing water anything can happen.

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    Okay, here are a few interesting things that the report by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under Fisheries Data Series number 2009-16 has to say on the subject of steelhead in the Kenai River Drainage. First they say that they put a weir into the Funny River with the under water video system back in 2006 to mainly focus on First Run Kings. During 2006 & 2007 they noticed what they thought were steelhead passing thru the weir. Then in 2008 - 2009 they took scale samples and confirmed that they were indeed steelhead. They put the weir in as soon as the ice went out on the Funny in 2009 (May 7) and what they found was that they immediately started seeing steelhead pass through which led them to believe that the run is slightly larger than what they counted. In 2008 they counted 187 steelhead and in 2009 they counted 172 steelhead. They also counted 81 rainbow trout in 2009.

    The study also states that steelhead have until now never been officially documented in the Kenai River drainage. Their lifehistory is thus poorly understood though they are thought to have similar behaviors to other southcentral steelhead populations. It goes on to say that steelhead entering the Kenai are likely fall-run fish that overwinter before spawning in tributaries in May - June. Part of the study was to initiate genetic tissue sampling of steelhead to determine if the spawning group of Funny River steelhead is distinct from other populations on the Kenai Peninsula and, if so, estimate level of genetic differentiation.

    Okay, my personal experience is that I have only seen one steelhead/bow caught in the tidewater area in May or June. I have seen a few caught in the tidewater late season while targeting coho but not very many. At times I think the fish that I catch in the Mid or Upper Kenai looks like a steelhead but have no way of being 100% sure. I did catch two bows/steelhead in the last few years that had sea lice on them so... Another thought that I have is why do we not see more "downers" in the spring? Seems like we would see more of them if there very many headed out to the salt especially those years that we get bait early in the king run. You see them in May on the Kasilof but then again it has been a long long time since we have had bait on the Kenai in May.

  10. #10

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    Not sure what the sceptisism is all about regarding steelhead in the Kenai. Seems logical to me that there would be steelhead. All the streams just down the highway has them, why not Kenai? And now it is finally documented by fish and game. I have seen a few of the lower Kenai tributaries and they look a lot like Crooked Creek and Ninilchik to the south where steelhead are present.

    Someone mentioned that rainbows could have sealice on them, not just steelhead. Would that be a subspecies of sorts?

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    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyo2AK View Post
    If anyone catches a fish that might be a steelhead, bonk it between the eyes and take it to the nearest F&G office for further analysis.
    Or you could just pull a scale and release the fish
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Default ADN article about steelhead in the Kenai


  13. #13

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    I caught one 8 years ago in august at big eddy soaking eggs for silvers. Not realy paying attention thinking at first it was a silver I bonked it, put it in the fish box, and reset my rod. I then pulled it out to bleed it and I knew right away it was a steelhead but I took it in to the f&g office to confim and yep it was. I know of one other guy who caught one in the same spot a few years later, he brought it to my house after catching it for me to ID it because he wasnt quite sure what it was and it was definitely a steelhead.

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    Member FishGod's Avatar
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    Don't bonk anymore suspicious fish. ADF&G in Soldotna already have plenty of samples verifying that steelhead are present. If you fish the lower Kenai alot during the winter, you will catch more steelies than most people would fathom. My winter fishing buddies and myself average at least one or more steelhead a day. My best day ever was 11 steelhead in one day on the Kenai. This year we are catching far fewer than years past, but a few have been caught recently. These are indeed steelies not rainbows, part of my job is fish identification.

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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    Or you could just pull a scale and release the fish
    Oy. I'm guessing by the that he was kidding.

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    if you are really interested in the life history of a steelhead like fish you caught, you could grab a scale just above the lateral line between the back of the dorsal and front of the ventral fins. You can then bring it to F&G and someone with a microscope can tell you the age and the amount of time at sea really easy.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default O. mykiss = O. mykiss

    Resident stream rainbow, lake-run rainbow, and sea-run rainbow (steelhead) are all O. mykiss... just different life histories of the same species. This sort of diversity in differing life strategies is NOT unique to the Kenai.

    We know in the PNW that resident stream-dwelling rainbows can and do spawn sea-going offspring. Conversely steelhead will spawn some smolts that residualize in the river and NEVER go out to sea. It's just part of the species' genetic diversity that help it to maximally colonize the habitats to which it has access.

    If there is a way out to sea, some individuals will go. If that outlet to the sea is somehow blocked by natural or man-made catastrophe, the anadromaous life history can no longer be expressed. However, if the route to the sea is later re-established, the resident trout can serve as a genetic "reservoir" to jumpstart the anadromous form once again.
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    Member FishGod's Avatar
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    Well said, the same is true for anadromous dollies. Although, their life history is more convoluted than O. mykiss.

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    I actually watched a 12 inch rainbow spawning with a steelhead this spring, it was pretty dang cool, that little guy was a pimp
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    I actually watched a 12 inch rainbow spawning with a steelhead this spring, it was pretty dang cool, that little guy was a pimp
    It's not just trout that will spawn with big hen steelhead.

    Sometimes it'll be a teeny weeny precocious parr that opportunistically "sneak spawns" with a bedded pair of adults at the very instant the protective alpha buck is temporarily "disabled" by the sex act.
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