Skamania Steelhead Rainbow Trouts

What is the difference between a Skamania Steelhead and Rainbow Trout?



(Skamania Trout)



Lake Michigan Steelhead Life Cycle 

Many people think that Steelhead and Rainbow Trout’s are exactly the same fish. In truth, they are similar but not the same, although they belong to the same species. There are several differences between the two, both in appearance and habits, as shown above.

Great Lakes steelhead are much more like salmon,  than they are like rainbows. Rainbows remain in the same body of water through their entire life cycle, including rivers, streams and some lakes, even though they may have access to the ocean. Steelhead are the most migratory of all the species in the Great Lakes, sometimes  covering over a thousand  miles of water before returning to their natal spawning habitat.  Great Lakes Steelhead start their lives in a stream, but quickly head back to the lakes to forage to grow up(see above) They then return to their natal waters to spawn. After spawning, they return back to the lake and start the process over. The two lifestyles usually change the appearance of the two fish, though at times it is really difficult telling the two  apart. A  steelhead most often becomes much more silvery in color, sometimes almost hiding the spots and colors that rainbows are know for. They normally grow much larger as well, and can weigh in excess of fifty pounds. Rainbows seldom become heavier than ten pounds, mainly because of the difference in abundance of food from the larger lakes  compared to rivers and streams.

Steelhead prefer 58-62 degree water, and so they will remain in lake shallows until well into Spring. For the most part, they are a top water oriented species, occupying the top ten to forty feet of water, even over depths to several hundred feet deep. Along with Coho and an occasional Brown  Trout or Chinook, the Steelhead cruise near the surface in loose schools to pick off emerging insects and floating insects like honey bees. Trolling with flatlines, downriggers set from 10 to 50 feet deep, and even outriggers are favored tactics. Lead lengths and trolling speeds vary from day to day.

Skamania Steelhead

 Most Great Lakes trollers don’t know how to tell a Skamania Steelhead from a regular Steelhead.  Well, it’s simple.  Just look between the fish’s dorsal fin (the one on top of the fish’s back) and it’s tail.  You’ll notice there’s no adipose fin there.  That’s the fin that looks like your thumb when you’re hitchhiking.   That’s the simplest way to tell.  The other ways are by taking a closer look to see if the fish has it’s pectorial fins (the ones in front by it’s head). Sometimes you’ll see one clipped half off or both pectorial fins clipped completely.  Why is this you ask?  This is the way the hatchery tells what year the fish is.  Meaning, they can tell if it’s a 2002, 2003, 2004 Skamania.  The hatchery also clips one of their back fins…..the one close to their tail.  A fresh Skamania Steelhead that hasn’t been in the lake long will be bright and silver (chrome as we say) and have a dark black top from head to tail.  They will darken up a bit once they’ve been hanging around in the lake for a while.  Some fishing guides and anglers say that Skamania Steelhead are more “acrobatic” than the regular steelhead.  I guess you’ll have to find out for yourself and fish for them. The lures I find to be the best are the Rapala  j-9 and Rapala j-11.



building…..more to come

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