Steelhead Lifecycle

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Teo

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I caught a steelie on the Alsea last week that was kind of dark, so I smoked him which turned out fine, but it got me wondering about the lifecycle of a steelhead. So let's say that a fish ( a native) has spawned and is rather dark, and then returns to the sea. How long will they stay in the ocean the second time? But more to the point, will they lose there darkness and become bright again, and will this return their meat to better condition? No, I'm not a poacher, just curious.

This sort of brings up a second question, when the hatchery "recycles" a fish does it go back out to sea? Do any hatchery fish return to the ocean, or are they just one trick ponies?

Thanks in advance,
Ken
 
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Thuggin4Life

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Steelhead make a several trips to sea and back permited the stay alive. Recycled fish are ones that make it to the hatchery then they toss them back in the river for them to have a chance to be caught since they made it to the hatchery alive and well the first time. sometimes they will recycle a fish a few times. Hatchery fish will go back to sea unless the hatchery has to kill them to get them to spawn like they do for salmon. I am unsure how they do it for steelhead but the bigger hatchery fish have deffinantly seen a few runs upriver and back. I would like to know how much time is spent in the river compaired to at sea. And for the meat they don't eat and use up all the calories and stored energy and fat to travel up river to spawn. then they head back to sea looking like a snake only to fatten back up gorgeing on all the good stuff in preperation for the long journey back up river for spawn.
 
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steelhead_stalkers

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I do believe that steelhead do eat when in the fresh water. They would all die if they did not. Salmon cannot eat as their body changes so they can't, steelhead still can eat. Summers are in the river for a very long time and they have to eat to stay alive. Steelhead eat a lot of stuff including roe, jigs, shrimp and a million other things you put in front of them. :lol:
 
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Thuggin4Life

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Yeah they might be eating a little bit but definantly not the first thing on there minds. Salmon will eat all thing thins mentioned. Steelhead might have to eat a little to stay alive but are deffinantly burning up there stored reserves.
 
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steelhead_stalkers

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Yeah for sure! They eat a little bit to stay alive and then when they are done spawning they really start to get hungry and aggressive. ;)
 
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Mike123

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I caught two "drop-back" summers last year on the South Santiam and their stomachs were seriously about to burst open they were so full of bugs. They were odd looking steelhead. You could tell they had been in the river for so long that they just turned back into looking like a big trout... about 4lbs. I don't think they have to return to the ocean after they spawn, they can just stay in the river and feed like a resident rainbow would do. And some do die after they spawn.
After they spawn, they eat a lot and actually brighten back up and look like a normal trout would, then the ones that go to the ocean get silver once in the salt for a bit.
 
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halibuthitman

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Yeah for sure! They eat a little bit to stay alive and then when they are done spawning they really start to get hungry and aggressive. ;)
you should make a jig that is a cigarette for post spawn fish.... seems like thats when I need a cig more than food!
 
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Damon79

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Steelhead spawn in the rivers, even the hatchery fish. Once a fish has spawned, they do in fact get bright again in fresh water. These fish are called Kelts. They do not have to be in a hurry to go back to the salt, but generally do go back fairly quickly. A friend and I caught a nice bright hen just above the mouth of Whitaker Cr. a couple years ago the day after Christmas and she had already spawned out and got really slender. She was 30" long and only weighed about 5 1/2 pounds. Oh, and she was unclipped. Summer run on the Siuslaw????? Wildlife biologist said it is possible. Absolutely no reason for a fish to be in the river in December and already darkened in the gill plates and spawned.. Anyway, all things are possible.. There is also a few spring Chinook that make their way into the Siuslaw, but the river is not open for retention at that time...Besides, with the new regs in place you can't fish for Chinook above the confluence with Lake Creek..
 
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beaverfan

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True some, ok a lot of hatchery fish do spawn in the river but most do not. They are caught in the fish traps at the hatchery's. The one's that do not get trapped do spawn in the rivers and in many cases return to sea. As was said earlier summer Steelhead have to eat at least some in fresh water due to the fact they typically spawn around the same time as there winter cousins. So that means sometimes 8-9 months in freshwater, so they would have to eat and my guess is they eat as often as food is readily available. My theory as to why summer Steelhead get so thin and go through they're fat reserves is food is nowhere near as plentiful in the streams that they spawn in. They usually spawn in smaller rivers and streams that have good water quality and clarity. Those types of streams typically don't offer a whole lot of food as shown by the small trout with huge heads that are also typically found. So when given the opportunity of an easy meal I think they would gladly eat it.
 
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FISHHEADMAFIA

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I have allways heard they go back to the salt , get chrome , and come , back the next year , until a orca , or fisherman gets them . they come back the first time after 3 - 5 years . your 5-8 #ers are 3 year fish typicly . bigger the fish , longer it stayed out , or it has been back home once already . but biologists say it ts rare that a fish will make it back home a 3rd time . the odds are just aginst them . recyceled fish do the same . as far as they know , they spawned . the hatchery does that for our bennnifit . gives us more of a chance to get our taggs filled . just what ive heard around the campfire .
 
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