Steelhead trout are the sea-run form of rainbow trout. Steelhead and rainbow trout are both born in fast-flowing, oxygen-rich rivers and streams. Rainbow trout stay in fresh water all of their lives, while steelhead migrate to the ocean and develop a more silvery color, and typically grow much larger than their freshwater-dwelling counterparts. These unique fish are usually a dark olive color, with shading that is silvery-white on their undersides and heavily speckled bodies. They also have a pink to red stripe that runs along their sides. Steelhead migrate back to the freshwater rivers and streams of their birth to mate. Unlike other anadromous Pacific salmonids, they can spawn more than one time. Steelhead can live to be up to 11 years.
Habitat: These diverse fish spend their younger days in freshwater streams and rivers. Young steelhead may spend up to seven years in freshwater before migrating to the ocean to feed and mature. There, they remain for up to three years before returning to freshwater to spawn. Some of these fish return to freshwater after their first season in the ocean, but instead of spawning, they return to the sea after one season in freshwater.
Food: Young steelhead love to eat zooplankton, which are tiny marine animals. Once they become adults, steelhead feed on aquatic and terrestrial (land-dwelling) insects, crustaceans, mollusks, minnows, fish eggs, and small fishes.
Facts: Steelhead are endangered due to human alteration of their habitat. Dams along rivers and streams have disrupted their migration, along with pollution and development. Scientists and public land managers are working to protect these unique and wonderful fish. Conservation efforts are currently underway, including hatcheries, removal and modification of dams that obstruct migration, habitat restoration and improved water quality.