Steelhead is a species of trout distinguishable by the dark-olive body and silvery white on the underside. Although a large steelhead may grow up to 55 pounds, the typical size is 15 to 20 pounds. The steelhead is unique among trout in that it spawns and develops in freshwater but goes to saltwater for the lion's share of its life. When you fish for steelhead in Washington state, be sure to have a Washington fishing license and to practice catch and release to ensure the health and viability of the fisheries.
Water Depth and Quality
Look for areas of fast water, with pools and eddies forming, because the fry of the steelhead use these areas for shelter and safety. Larger steelhead come in to feed on the fry in these areas, making them prime spots for landing big fish. Steelhead also feed on insects, salmon eggs and smaller fish; select flies based on the insects and smaller fry in the area and make sure they imitate these creatures. Look for summer runs of steelhead in rivers east of the Cascades, advises the website produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The Cowlitz River flows in the southwest portion of the state and has a summer steelhead run. The run begins in early June. Guides who work the river report success using corkies and yarn or small bits of egg or shrimp while drift fishing from a boat on the river. They suggest using plugs like hot-shots or tadpollys after thoroughly drift fishing your section of the river. Use 10- or 12-pound-test with a tandem-tied double hook with the shrimp or egg. Using a No. 1 hook with a corky and yarn brings in steelhead, as reported by fishing guides with the Onco Sportfishing and Guide Service.
Skokomish and the South Fork Skokomish
The Skokomish and South Fork Skokomish rivers in Mason County west of Seattle have a summer steelhead run that starts in early June. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife requests that anglers use catch and release with steelhead caught in these areas. If the fish is hooked through the eye or has swallowed the lure or hook, you may keep the fish as allowed by law. Guides at Mystical Legends Guide Service suggest fishing the deeper eddies for large summer steelhead. Use jigs and baits such as minnows or frozen shad, and jig off the bottom in the deeper pools along the rivers.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.