Deschutes Redside or Steelhead

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by stklein.issaquah, Jan 12, 2014.

  1. stklein.issaquah

    stklein.issaquah New Member

    Good morning,
    I posted the following image on my fly fishing Pinterest page and labeled it as a Deschutes Redside, as it had been labeled on the blog from which I pulled the picture. There has been some discussion about the picture with a few stating this is a Steelhead and not a Redside. I do not know how to tell the difference so would like to ask your opinion.
    Thank you.

  2. Steve Saville

    Steve Saville Active Member

  3. stklein.issaquah

    stklein.issaquah New Member

    What tells you that? Just size or are there distinct features that stand out?
  4. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    I'd say steelhead as well. Redside would have lots more spots below the lateral line.
  5. stklein.issaquah

    stklein.issaquah New Member

    Thank you. Clearly, I'm not catching enough Steelheads.
  6. In the late 1960-early 70's my dad & I caught several fish that we looked like redsides from 20+ to over 30 inches. The ones we caught in the Spring we wrote off as Steelhead but several, including the biggest at well over 30" were caught in September/October and had more of the fall "redside" bronze hue. Dad had a theory some steelhead might "overstay" in the river instead of head back out to sea post-spawn due to the multitude of food in the river. Your fish looks like a steelhead. I don't recall ours having the "double-stripe" on the bucks. Nice fish, either way.
  7. freestoneangler

    freestoneangler Not to be confused with Freestone

    Well, that's just my best guess. I'm pretty sure, over the eon's, these guys have, on occasion, played hanky-panky in the broom closet... so could be some cross-breeding results. We have a few on the forum who make a living at fisheries science and I'm certain they'll chime in and offer more specific answers.
  8. Preston

    Preston Active Member

    Thr redside, or redband, rainbow is the interior, or Columbia River Basin, subspecies (Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri) of the rainbow trout. Both the interior and coastal subspecies (O. m. irideus) can and do exhibit anadromous behavior. The only difference between a rainbow trout and a steelhead is that the steelhead has opted to go to sea for a period of time and the offspring of steelhead are capable of adopting a resident lifestyle and vice-versa.

    Spotting patterns and such are not an accurate indication of an anadromous or a resident life history. Judging from its size, I would suspect it is a steelhead.
  9. David Dalan

    David Dalan 69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E

    Two things, size and lack of spots below the lateral line would have me call it a steelhead.

    Redside residents very likely breed with wild summer run fish in the D and elsewhere.
  10. Steve Saville

    Steve Saville Active Member

    Hey, I could be mistaken but from my own experience on the Deschutes, the coloring isn't the same as a Redside nor the shape from what I can see of your fish. "Shoulders" and "Football" are two descriptive words that I have heard often with the Redside and they do describe the ones I have caught in years past. I caught two last spring on a trip and they were lighter in color but that could be from the time of year.
  11. stklein.issaquah

    stklein.issaquah New Member

    Thank you, all! Great information.
  12. Preston

    Preston Active Member

    C'mon guys. There IS NO difference between a resident rainbow (redside, redband) and a steelhead except that one has gone to sea. In fact rainbow trout (whether interior or coastal) are an important part of the rainbow/steelhead complex in their native ranges. Resident rainbow can and do spawn with steelhead and their offspring can and do adopt either a resident or anadromous life history.
    Noll, Ryan Higgins, jwg and 3 others like this.
  13. GAT

    GAT Active Member

    While some folks claim they catch giant redsides (redband trout) in the Deschutes, the ODF&W bio I've spoken with, plus my fish biologist friend, has indicated that the redbands seldom grow much larger than 20-inches. Some do, but very few. The average large size of redband for The D is 18-inches. This is according to the fish biologists and friends who have worked for the ODF&W and are knowledgeable in regards to the trout in the Deschutes.

    Therefore, due to size alone, I'd say that's a steelhead that's been in the river for awhile.
  14. BDD

    BDD Active Member

    One way to tell for sure would be to take a scale sample. As Preston has stated, they are the same exact fish. Two alevins coming out of the gravel: one stays in the Deschutes its whole life while the other goes to the ocean. This can and does happen. Color and spotting patterns are irrelevant in the spring (obviously there may be color differences between the two in the steelhead the closer it is to ocean in the summer or fall). There may be some slight differences in body shape; the steelhead may be more fusiform as a result of a biological change (like silvery coloration for saltwater adaptation) to help aid in long-distance swimming whereas the resident form may be more stocky but this is a result of being resident or anadromous and not necessarily genetic.
    P.Dieter likes this.
  15. Porter

    Porter Active Member

  16. P.Dieter

    P.Dieter Just Another Bubba

    Maybe folks need to read this a couple times so I quote it.

    And from the WA regs: "Steelhead A sea-run rainbow trout 20" in length and over."
    So in WA a rainbow + 20" with access to saltwater is a steelhead for legal purposes.
  17. Olive bugger

    Olive bugger Active Member

    Trout are PROMISCUOUS?

    I find that hard to believe.
    Porter likes this.
  18. jwg

    jwg Active Member

    What do you look for in the scale sample?

    Can an amateur biologist or fisherman do it?

  19. jwg

    jwg Active Member

    Genetic studies have proven this to be true

  20. cabezon

    cabezon Sculpin Enterprises

    Hi Jay,
    While at some level, the process doesn't require much more elaborate a setup than a good dissecting microscope, it does require experience to make the calls with any confidence. This paper (;idno=5020339.0001.001) is 30 years olds and refers to Great Lakes salmonids, but the idea on looking at the spacing of growth rings is true to anadromous salmonids too. Another more-technical option is to examine regions of a scale for chemical signatures that are characteristic of freshwater versus saltwater environments.