Jumping whales on coastal stream -- steelhead?

Peaceful

Peaceful

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Two questions for the Big fish stalkers...

While trout hunting on the Wilson, this pod of 2-3 very large (30"+) fish were sitting in a deep channel out of sight, then rising to the surface to feed on something -- I could never make out what it was. It was repetitive, sometimes slurping off the surface while facing the eddy's back channels, sometimes violently breaking the surface to yank something coming downstream. They continued all afternoon, evening, and night, then continued again the next morning.

1. Were these steelhead?

2. (I know practically nothing about steelhead, so pardon the greenie questions...) What are they munching on at the surface? I was watching the water very closely but never saw many bugs. In fact, the one time I did see a bug floating on the surface -- a giant month making all sorts of a fuss that just swirled endlessly in 20' eddy circles -- the Moby Dicks seemed to ignore it, which was very surprising to me.

Thanks in advance for scratching the "what in the heck are those monstrosities!" curiosity itch!
 
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brandon4455

brandon4455

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My money is on two things. Fall chinook or moldy old spring chinook either spawning or just rolling trying to break up their eggs/sperm or trying to get rid of parasites. Salmon roll a lot more commonly than steelhead though it does happen but usually when they’re in large groups. Not to say steelhead don’t feed though. They definitely do while in river. I think you saw salmon though. What you saw that looked like a moth was probably an October caddis which I’d assume if it was over a feeding summer steelhead, it would be dead pretty quick.
 
troutdude

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Your description of "2-3 very large (30"+) fish were sitting in a deep channel" tells me that they were Chinook. Likely hovering over / protecting their redd.
 
Peaceful

Peaceful

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Chinook! Great to know, guys, thanks for the clarity. So they eat at night like that huh? I was so taken aback by one that was feeding right alongside where I was drifting my flies. Breathtaking creatures.
 
brandon4455

brandon4455

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Chinook! Great to know, guys, thanks for the clarity. So they eat at night like that huh? I was so taken aback by one that was feeding right alongside where I was drifting my flies. Breathtaking creatures.
There is a lot of speculation as to whether salmon do or do not feed in freshwater on their spawning run, but the common belief is that they do not. They will jump, splash, and roll to break up their egg skeins and sperm sacks pre spawn, they will porpoise to clean/flush their gills of debris Or to even look at their environment (which might especially appear /mistaken to be feeding activity) and they will violently splash or go flying in the air if they have parasites or hooks stuck in them.
 
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