Summer vs. Winter
by David Johnson
It is transition time in our steelhead rivers. Summer run steelies start to trickle in, mixing with the winters and eventually the winters fade. Both can be caught now through April.
I've already heard of several summers caught from the Sandy and Siletz and I'm sure there have been some caught from the Clackamas too.
But how do you tell what you have?
Some of the key differences you can look for in an early summer are the very steel blue back, white belly and very clear fins. These clear fins will have a blue tint to them when the fish is still swimming in the water. Their body/belly will also feel solid. Many of the late winter steelhead, both hatchery and wild, will be as chrome bright as an early summer and could be hard to tell apart. If it is a hen, look at the vent to see if it is protruding. Its belly should feel loaded with eggs (because they will be) if it's a buck it may have just the very lightest tint of rose in the cheek.Early Summer Steel
Late winter (caught on coastal river April 28)
Now these features can sometimes be very slight and the only 100% way will be to clean it and see how undeveloped the eggs or sperm are.Size difference of the eggs in summers and winters
Another steelhead you may come across is a spawned out winter. These might have "trouty" colors or some may be hens that are bright. Tail erosion, a small concave line down the belly and a "snakey" appearance are tell tale signs. These spawned out fish should be released as they are usually poor on the table and will return another year if they get the chance. Notice that the belly is skinny and not full
It's an exciting time to be on our rivers, chasing a mixed bag.