Is it the official winter steelhead kick-off?
Yes and no. Tradition says that Thanksgiving is the official kick-off for winter steelhead. But many times the steelhead don't stick to tradition. I won't get too excited for another week or two.
There are always rumors floating around this time of year but many times there are not many confermations. Sometimes they are summer runs that people catch and get all excited about.
Personally the earliest winter we've caught was November 11th. We caught it on the Kilchis about 13 years ago while fishing chums with a corkie and yarn.
There are some around and as the water clears there should be more. The coast is the place there will be the most as the fish down there don't have as far to travel and many times I beleive there is an early shot of fish that fallow the fall chinook and chums to feed on loose eggs.
For the last few weeks I have heard of one or two caught every day or so from different rivers including the Wilson, Trask, Kilchis, Sandy and Willamette. Some of these could have been summers but others were caught or seen by people or guides that I trust. I heard North Fork Nehalem and Three Rivers hatcheries got a few winters in the traps. This is all good.
Just don't get too excited and go a bunch and get burned out from not catching any thing and then quit before it gets good. The hatchery peak always is from about December 15 to the end of January so if the time you can fish is limited hold off now and go later for the peak.
Personally when there are still chinook around I find it hard to fish steelhead. I'm going to start fishing some of the steelhead water but I'll still be fishing chinook too. It's transition time.
If you want to target steelhead go for the smaller streams that are known for early hatchery runs like the NF Nehalem, Big Creek and Three Rivers. Since it's early there are less fish so it only makes sence to fish smaller streams were the fish will be more concetrated.
"Match the hatch" Corkie and yarn or eggs shoud be your best bet as the steelhead will be keying in on the spawning salmon at this time.