Oncorhynchus mykiss



Coastal, rivers

2 - 35 pounds

12" - 46"

Steelhead Trout

Also Known As:

Guides Who Fish This Species

Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) Fish Description 

Steelhead (often called steelhead trout) is an anadromous (sea-run) form of the coastal rainbow trout that typically returns to freshwater to spawn after living two to three years in the ocean. Steelhead and Rainbow Trout are actually the same species, but they have different lifestyles. Steelhead spends part of their lives in the sea before going to rivers to breed—while rainbow trout spend their lives entirely in freshwater. Because of this, rainbow trout and steelhead are different in appearance, most noticeably in size and color. Rainbow trout derive their name from their beautiful, multi-hued coloration. Their bodies are blue, green, or yellowish, shading to silvery-white on the underside, with a horizontal pink-red stripe running from the gills to the tail and black spots along their backs. Steelhead is generally more streamlined in shape and silvery or brassy in color as adults, with black spots on their backs earning them their name. Steelhead has a streamlined body. They have black spots on the back and a pinkish-red stripe is present between the tail and the gills. Unlike rainbow trout, its body is more brassy and silvery in color. The anal fins contain 10 -12 rays. 

Steelhead Trout Habitat and Distribution 

Steelhead trout come and occupy freshwater lakes and streams during their lives. As a protective cover, Steelhead trout use wood, boulders, and vegetation. For spawning, Steelhead trout returns to freshwater bodies for a small period and spends most of their life in sea or estuaries. 


Oncorhynchus mykiss is an excellent game fish in northern America.it native to the west of Rockies. But now steelhead trout is introduced in the majority of states. It is also present on all continents. The only place that has no steelhead trout is Antarctica. 

Steelhead Trout Weight and Length 

The average length of Steelhead trout is 24 inches but there are reports of steelhead trout reaching 45 inches. 55 pounds is the maximum weight that is reported for steelhead trout. 

Steelhead trout Interesting facts 

  1. The life expectancy is 11 years.
  2. Steelhead trout spawn multiple times.

• They are migratory fish. 

• Rainbow trout lives all its life in freshwater but steelhead trout spend life in the sea and only come to rivers to breed • Due to time spent in the marine environment, they develop a lot of black spots on the body. 

Steelhead Trout Diet 

They can eat anything like eggs, crustaceans, mollusks, small fish, and insects in adult age and when they are young they feed on zooplankton. 

Steelhead Trout Best Fishing Techniques 

The best techniques for this fish are drifting, plunking, back trolling, and fly fishing. For fly fishing, both double and single-handed rods can be equally effective. They can be helpful to drift a nymph rig or swing a fly in the water. Spey rods and switch rods are very popular for fly fishing. The handiest Spey rod is a 13.5-foot 7-weight rod. Steelhead fly fishing is challenging but the reward is a tremendous fight. 

Steelhead Trout Baits and Lure 

For wet swing, it is better to use number 6-number 8 flies that are tied thinly such as Golden Demon, Skunk, Brad’s Brat, Silver Hilton, Max Canyon, Surgeon General, Purple Peril, and Skykomish Sunrise. You can use a bomber as a dry fly. 

Steelhead Trout Migration and Spawning 

They show migratory behavior as they spent the majority of their adult years in the sea. They come to freshwater for spawning and then return. On the gravel of freshwater bodies such as tributaries, steelhead trout female lay eggs which are fertilized by the male. They can lay 9000 eggs at a time but it depends on the female steelhead trout size. 

Steelhead Trout Season 

The best time of year for catching starts in mid-fall and ends in spring. ## The Trout Family Trout are members of the family Salmonidae, order Salmoniformes. The native trout family is closely related to salmon. A top fly fishing family of fish that are both tremendous game fish and tasty eating fish. Found in small streams, large rivers, and any trout stream with the right water temperature, aquatic insects, and clean water. The trout species is usually restricted to freshwater, though a few types migrate to the sea between spawnings. Members of the trout species include Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, Brook Trout, Lake Trout, Steelhead Trout, Bull Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Apache Trout and several other smaller species.