Steelhead Trout

Fly Fishing Set-up
Fly Fishing Set-up

Steelhead trout is one of the most prized game fish among its trout family. The difference between steelhead and rainbow is that steelhead are sea run fish. The true difference is that the steelhead live in the ocean for a few years before making its run to freshwater to spawn. This is a comprehensive guide for anglers and fellow fishermen alike to become a little more familiar with this type of fish. Starting with the basics of the steelhead trout this article will guide you through the life cycle of the fish and where they typically like to hide out. This is then followed by a quick look at the types of lures and baits used to reel these fish in.

Background of Steelhead Trout

steelheadtroutSteelhead is quite a popular term used to describe these ocean runners in Canada as well as the U.S. Steelhead trout kind of follow the same cycle of that of Salmon, in that they return to their original hatching grounds. Steelhead unlike most salmon they can spawn multiple times over the course of a few months, making for some great consistent fishing in the fall and spring months. The reason for this is because there are different run cycles: summer-run and winter run.

In regards to their diet, steelhead trout typically enjoy insects that pass on by or end up trapped in the water. Not overly aggressive these fish also like to snack on fish eggs, making a spawn bag a popular method to catching these fish. Adult steelhead are a little more aggressive in their search for food, eating floating fish carcasses as well as other fish. Squid, crayfish and shrimp are also on the menu at the steelhead buffet.

When it comes to the fishing of Steelhead Trout there are a few popular methods. Fly fishing may be regarded as the most popular but spinner casting and trolling come in right behind. These fishing methods really depend on accessibility. Spin casting is great for shoreline fish, trolling if you own a boat, and fly fishing if you own a pair of hipweighters. Regardless, these methods are all great ways to catch yourself a monster Steelhead

Steelhead Baits Lures & Methods

  • Spawn bag set-up – A popular method for many anglers, these live baits or natural baits fare well with the steelhead. Some anglers will use a two foot liter and bobber set-up for better bait placement in shallower water.
  • Fly fishing– Many fishermen prize this method because of it natural bait placement and because flies are on the menu every day for the Steelhead. Most of the time anything that bites a fly is larger in size, making for a great experience.
  • Spinner baits– Anglers who enjoy using these types of baits either find themselves rigging up a Vibrax or spoon. The brighter the better in this case as that these fish thrive in fast moving water.
  • Downrigging– If you own a boat this may be one of your best options, trolling with downriggers is a great way to play different heights of the water. In this case chrome shiners or spoons work great. Remember to always stay moving if not these lure will sink, increasing your chance of a snag


Even though these fish are a great catch we have to make sure we follow state and provincial fishing laws. The decline in steelhead trout is real and it is mainly due to natural causes but over harvesting of the fish recreationally as well as commercially both have a large impact on this species of fish. Remember to stay within the laws and respect the fish, Always.

2 thoughts on “Steelhead Trout

  1. What a unique fish! I can only imagine the difficulty of catching a fish that only spends so much of its time in freshwater. What are some great places to find this fish? I would love to take a trip with my sons and see if we can get one.

  2. Thanks for sharing some tips for catching steelhead trout. It is good to know that live or natural bait is a good way to catch trout. I like the idea of fly fishing, since you mention you can usually catch bigger fish that way. Hopefully, I can use some of these tips when I go fishing.

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