Steelhead is rainbow trout that have reached a length of about 24 to 28 inches and that have returned to their home streams to spawn. Steelheads are not salmon, but they look very much like salmon. They have red spots on their sides, a gray body with black spots, and narrow bands along their sides. Many people are confused about the differences between steelhead and salmon, so it is important to learn the differences and understand which species can be harvested by anglers in California waters.
The steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is an anadromous fish, also known as the steelhead, which migrates from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in freshwater. The steelhead gets two names because they boast the freshwater rainbow trout (a species of trout) and ocean salmon (another type of trout). Steelhead fish can be found in the Pacific Ocean, ranging from Alaska and Russia to California. Though both are born in freshwater, they mature in the ocean before swimming back as adults to spawn in freshwater.
Steelheads are also called sea-run fish
because of their ability to travel long distances between freshwater and the ocean. They typically enter rivers in autumn and migrate downstream, pausing to rest and feed along the way. Steelhead return to their natal rivers or streams to spawn; however, they rarely reproduce until they are a few years old