The Life Cycle of a Steelhead
Steelhead trout belong to the family Salmonidae which includes all salmon, trout, and the char. Steelhead are the anadromous form of rainbow trout which migrate to the oceans during their adult life, they then return to the same steam and rivers where they migrated from as juveniles. They are a salmonid species native to western North America and the Pacific Coast of Asia. The term anadromous refers to fish species born in the stream that migrate to the ocean for their adult phase. Steelheads have a life cycle similar to the Pacific salmon and require the same ecological requirements. They are born in fresh water streams, where they can spend their first 1-3 years of life depending on migration conditions. They will then migrate to the ocean where their real growth occurs. They will spend from one to four years in the ocean. The steelhead then will return to the same fresh water stream to spawn. Unlike Pacific salmon, some steelhead do not necessarily die after spawning and are able to spawn more than once. These steelhead are normally located along the coastal streams, longer migration such as here in Idaho takes it toll on these great fish as they do not feed once the return to the fresh water streams. Here in Idaho, most steelhead spawn from March through June in small streams and tributaries where cool, well oxygenated water is available year round, have this cool clean water is key to their spawning success. The female selects a site with gravel beds that have an abundance of rocks in the 1/2 inch size where there is good flow of the current through the gravel. She will then digs a nest using her tail, these nest are called redds, a male will come up along side of her and coax her into depositing her eggs, which the male will then fertilizes. These eggs are then covered by gravels and small stones when the female makes another redd just upstream. The length of time it takes for eggs to hatch depends on water temperature. In hatcheries with carefully controlled conditions, steelhead eggs hatch after 30 days at a temperature of 51° F. The optimal temperature for egg incubation is between 44 and 50° F. Eggs will hatch sooner in warmer water, however the young fish are normally smaller and they have lower survival rates. If the water temperature gets too high, eggs will not hatch at all. After these eggs hatch, the developing steelhead will remain in the gravel for another four to six weeks. During this time, they are called alevins and they obtain their nutrients from a yolk sack attached to their body. Once they have used all the nutrients from their yolk sack they emerge from the gravel, they are now called fry, and are capable of finding and catching their own food. The fry will move to shallow, protected areas of the stream, rock downed trees and the under cuts in the stream banks now play an important role. The fry and as they develop, the smolt as they are now called will establish feeding areas which they defend. They will remain in these steams and tributaries until they are ready to start their migration to the Ocean; there they spend the next 1 to 4 years of their lives grow and maturing until they are ready to start their migration back to the same streams which they were raised in and the process will start over again. Thankfully for steelhead anglers many states have a very aggressive stacking plan in place to keep these magnificent fish returning. The loss of spawning habitat and dams impeding their migration routes have taken its toll on the natural runs, but with the stocking of streams and assistance in their migration we still have the opportunity to fish for these fish in some of our rivers and steams. I just want to give a big thank you to all agencies involved in keeping these might fish available to us. Thank you all!!! By: RR Smith Looking to save on your next purchase of Steelhead Gear Please visit my Store at http://www.steelhead-gear.com Steelhead Gear.Com I'm sure you will find some of the best prices available anywhere on the internet.