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Is it a steelhead?

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  • Is it a steelhead?

    So here's another question to ponder; or maybe no ponder is necessary.
    So every year on my annual extended fishing trips in the bush, it seems like there is always at least one trout that we all gather around and begin debating as to whether it is a steelhead or a rainbow trout. Here are my questions to you:
    If a rainbow has sea lice on it, is it a steelhead?
    Are there parasites in freshwater that resemble sea lice?
    Does a rainbow become a steelhead when it has passed salt through its gills?
    What is a steelgead to you?
    Have at it.

  • #2
    here's one in Question

    Click image for larger version

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    here's a fish of debate

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    • #3
      I caught a rainbow in my salmon net one year out in the estuary during the high tide. Was thinking that maybe it just took a little swim out in the salt, and I have alway wondered if anyone ever caught any tagged bows before that were tagged in a different river than they one they were fishing in, fish that would have had to swim out into the salt water to get into the other river.

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      • #4
        After some pondering...

        I'd guess that any species of trout (that's near a coast) has the ability to spend time in the salt. There are sea-run browns, cuts, brookies, Dollys, so I'd bet there are sea-run rainbows as well.

        If the fish spends the majority of its life in the ocean, returning to freshwater only to reproduce, then it's a steelhead.

        If the fish spends the majority of its life in the freshwater, but makes occasional jaunts into the salt, then it's a (sea-run) rainbow.

        In the end, they're all Oncorhynchus mykiss.

        As to whether a rainbow could spend enough time in the salt to get sea lice - maybe? probably? :confused:

        Do rainbows occasionally migrate from one river to another through the salt - I don't see why not.

        PS - nice steelbow rippinlip!
        Pursue happiness with diligence.

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        • #5
          SH

          Looks like a steelhead to me, the Copper system gets them way up through Middle Fork Gulkana. One way to distinguish is the steelhead are spotted for the most part above the lateral line. I'd say if it has sealice its a steelhead.
          Last edited by whitepalm; 01-16-2009, 17:16. Reason: change West fork to Middle

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          • #6
            areas where you suspect you might run into steelhead bring a bit of cardboard rubber banded together with some wax paper take a scale above the lateral line on line with the back of the dorsal fin with your forceps, put it in the wax paper and bring it to adf&g next time your in town, they'll tell you the life history of the fish...

            I'd say that fish is a steelhead

            They are the same species (steelhead and resident rainbows) a rainbow becomes a steelhead when it enter salt water.
            I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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            • #7
              So is that to say that a rainbow just tasting the salt is a steelhead?
              Here is another.
              Attached Files

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              • #8
                Originally posted by rippinlip View Post
                So is that to say that a rainbow just tasting the salt is a steelhead?
                Yes and no... I wouldn't call a bow that didn't spend more than like 3 months in the salt a steelhead. But I suppose you could.

                Here is another.
                Thats a rainbow, way to many spots below the lateral line plus that sucker is FAAATTTT....
                I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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                • #9
                  That one had sea lice on it.

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                  • #10
                    crazy, where did you catch it if you don't mind me asking (be general)? I mean a fish like that with sea lice on it couldn't have been in salt water for very long because it would have lost its coloration and become much more silver (like the first one) musta been poking around the esuary or something... The sea lice were in the usual place by the ventral fin? Recently there have been quite a few fish with a sea lice looking thing on their gills from inland areas, could they have been those?

                    I'm intrigued, never heard a fish that spotted up having sea lice.
                    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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                    • #11
                      That one was on the Alagnak, lower river but not in tide influenced water. Sea lice were in the typical spot., down low, towards rear. I was really surprised to them on that fish.This is why a want to learn more on this subject. It just seems like there are alot of grey areas, not so many hard fast rules.

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                      • #12
                        The first one is probably a steelhead, the second one is definately a rainbow. Maybe it went to the ocean for like a week and got some sea lice, but it is definately a rainbow.
                        The definition of a steelhead is a rainbow trout that lives in the ocean, and only comes to fresh water to spawn.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rippinlip View Post
                          That one was on the Alagnak, lower river but not in tide influenced water. Sea lice were in the typical spot., down low, towards rear. I was really surprised to them on that fish.This is why a want to learn more on this subject. It just seems like there are alot of grey areas, not so many hard fast rules.
                          heh naknek was my first guess alagnak was my second... I'd agree with AK_char probably ended up in the bay chasing smolt or something or was moving between naknek and kvichak systems which seems like a reasonable thing for a rainbow to do. I wonder how often they end up in gillnets, I've not heard of to many from the comm guys and only a few from upstream subsistence folks.

                          I did read somewhere that all trout will go out to saltwater for a time if its available to them even lake trout (did see a laker going up the alagnak with a pod of sockeye last year much closer to the bay than the lakes, and yes I'm sure it was a laker), not sure its been studied much or at all.
                          I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ak char View Post
                            The definition of a steelhead is a rainbow trout that lives in the ocean, and only comes to fresh water to spawn.
                            what about half pounders? Or the ones that overwinter in lakes?

                            I'll just call them all mykiss...
                            I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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                            • #15
                              The great debate.

                              Although steelhead and rainbows are both mykiss they are genetically different. For example here in the midwest we have a ton of different strains planted in lake Michigan. Mostly kamloop, Skamania, and Chambers creek. These fish are from different genetic backgrounds, run at different times and look similiar. For what ever reason these fish get the urge to run out the big lake and run back up when it's time to drop eggs. There are also rainbows that are true rainbows that will remain in the rivers and not leave. We also see the same things with our browns here. We have german browns and seeforllen browns. They run at different times and prefer different water conditions and food. The ONLY way to tell them apart is by genetic testing. Now on the final note and this was after speaking with the fisheries biologist here in WI. A trout that happens enter to "open water" is not a steelhead. These fish are simply "Lake Run Rainbows".


                              Kamloop


                              Skamania


                              German Brown


                              Seeforllen Brown

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