Is a Steelhead a Trout or a Salmon?

What Is A Steelhead?

Steelheads also called ‘Rainbow Trout’ or ‘Steelhead Trout’, these species of fish are found in both freshwater and ocean bodies of water in North America and also Siberia in Asia. The fish are great migrators who as juveniles emigrate to the ocean water before returning to freshwater during the summer months in rivers, streams, and lakes.

This species of fish love habitats that are full of plants, gravel and anything else they can use to hide their eggs from predators until they hatch by themselves during the summer seasons. Once the fish hatch, they soon begin their journey towards the northern regions of the Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Siberia.

Known to be a very aggressive fish which is great for fishermen as they can use a wide variety of bait and also they have to spend less time waiting around for the fish to bite the bait despite the fish not expending a lot of energy on hunting after they have just spawned.

Steelheads are a fish that is found through North America in the United States, Canada as well as Russia. This species of fish is also well known for going deep into United States territory in rivers and lakes in states such as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

What Is A Salmon?

Salmon is another ‘anadromous’ fish that lives both in salt and freshwater which is quite an amazing feat since few fishes can live in both environments as they are such diverse habitats that the cells of most fish will simply burst and they will also suffer from psychological issues. There are many species of Salmon with 9 species currently being recognized. A very smart fish that is known for returning to the exact rivers and streams where they originally spawned years ago.

Juvenile Salmon tend to be a different color compared to when they mature, with the most well-known species of Salmon being originally light blue with a silver head when they are fresh spawns before eventually turning bright red or orange with a green head. Despite being tasty when smoked, Salmon is a great fish to try and catch when fishing due to their rarity, catching them is a fun challenge to embark on.

Salmon are found throughout the world with the fish migrating into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In the United States, these fish are found in the Salish Sea, Alaska and other states including Washington, Montana, Idaho and South Dakota to name a few.

What Is A Trout?

Trout is a name for a large number of species of fish that live in freshwaters but can also be found migrating to salt waters. They feed on other smaller fish, insects found in water and on land as well as plankton with Trout itself is a very popular edible fish in Europe.

Species of Trout are a common species for fishing in rivers, streams, and lakes around the world. Ice fishing is also a popular way to fish for Trout particularly in rivers, streams, and lakes in Canada and Alaska and other northern parts of the mainland of the United States.

Trouts are a fish that are found all over the world in Asia, Europe and of course North America with species of Trout also being introduced to other parts of the world such as Australia and New Zealand by European settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries quickly becoming some of the dominant species of fish in those areas.

Are Both Salmon And Steelhead, Trout?

Salmon is just one of a number of species of fish that fall under the collective name of Trout.  Some people even use the term ‘Salmon Trout’ which is officially an incorrect term as Salmon is just a type of Trout. Due to the different ways of life and behavior as well as the taste of their meat, many people think that Salmon is a separate species to Trout.

All this confusion does not go away with Steelheads, which are also a type of Trout but are confused by some people of being a type of Salmon due to their very similar behaviors with the biggest being that they take on large ocean migrations while most Trout species do not. Furthermore, due to spending a lot of time out at sea their meat has a very similar look and taste to Salmon. Despite this, Steelheads are currently an endangered species, unlike Salmon which has a large healthy population due to the fish species being widely farmed.


To conclude, Salmon and Steelhead are both two separate species that are part of the Trout family of fish which are known for always returning to spawn in the same areas with confusions arising due to some species of Trout such as Salmon and Steelheads migrating from the usual fresh water habitats of Trout to salt water environments.

What To Know About Rainbow Trout?

1. What Is A Rainbow Trout?

A rainbow trout is a cold-water fish found in the freshwater streams and lakes in the entire Northern Hemisphere in North America and Asia. Rainbow trouts living in different regions have different colors and have acquired different names such as rainbow, bow, steelhead, silver, and Kamloops trout.

Rainbow Trout Characteristics

Rainbow trouts are about 16 to 30 inches long and weigh between 2 and 16 pounds. They have an elongated and compressed body ending with a squared tail. They have different colors among fishes in different regions. All trouts have a maximum of 12 anal finned rays. They usually have a dark back with shades which are either steel blue or green to brown in color. Their cheeks and sides are silver in color and with a red or pink stripe that runs through their lateral sides, all along or a part of the body. They have a silver-white belly and speckled with dark spots on their back of the body. Rainbow trouts usually change their color during spawning periods.

Rainbow Trout Food

Rainbow trouts are strict carnivores and feed on other fishes, crabs, shrimps, lobsters, and small trouts as well. Young trouts feed on insects, worms crabs, shrimps, and lobsters. Rainbow trouts can travel to long distances in search of food. When food s scarce, they can feed on insect larvae, fish eggs, and pupae.

Rainbow Trout Habitat

Rainbow trouts are cold-water fishes that live in freshwater, creeks, lakes, small and large rivers, estuaries and oceans. They can collectively use some or all these habitats, which has water which is clear, clean and cold. It has great ability to swim up and down the streams which enable them to sustain in a wide variety of habitats, migrate to long distances for food and spawning.

Rainbow Trout Sustainability

They have the ability to thrive in hatcheries which enabled them to be introduced in many streams and lakes across the US. It also has great popularity as a recreational sport fish among the anglers. However, the change of vegetation, soil erosion, man-made constructions like dams, roads cause obstruction for rainbow trouts to swim up and downstream, which has led to a significant drop in their numbers.

2. Are Rainbow Trout And Steelhead The Same Species?

Rainbow trouts and steelheads are of the same species of trout. They both are ray-finned fish from the Salmon family, but they have a different style of living. Rainbow trouts mostly spend their entire part of life in freshwater, while a steelhead mostly lives in the seas and oceans and move into rivers for breeding. Due to their varying lifestyles, rainbow trout and steelheads appear different in their size and colors. Rainbow trouts have multi-hued colors and dark spots on their backs while steelheads have a more streamlined body and have silver or brass color.

Steelhead spends its first two to three years in freshwater and then spend their next two to three years in oceans. Steelheads are typically larger in size than rainbow trouts.

Both rainbow trouts and steelhead are native to North America, but they are introduced in various states and continents to diversify their habitat and numbers. Both rainbow trout and steelhead spend varying tine in freshwater at some point in their life. They both use boulders, wood, aquatic vegetation as a protective cover.

3. Where Do Rainbow Trout Spawn?

Rainbow trout start their spawning during spring season every year. They usually travel upstream and select places with small and large gravel and use small substrates to construct its nest, called redd. Rainbow trouts redds are usually located in streams which have higher water velocity and with shallow waters. Their place of selection for spawning is not affected by water temperature or sunlight.

Rainbow trouts can breed between the ages of one and five. Males have the ability to mature faster than females. Rainbow trout spawns upstream and can travel quite a distance to find a suitable location and lays its eggs in redd. The female rainbow trout uses her tail, the digs a depression in the gravel to create the redd and lays her eggs in it, covers it with gravel using its fins. A male rainbow trout releases his sperms over these redds to fertilize the eggs. These eggs hatch after four to seven weeks to produce young trouts. These young hatched touts are called sac fry, and as they start growing, they develop dark vertical bars on their sides.

Unlike a salmon fish, a rainbow trout never dies after spawning. It returns to the freshwater and continues to spawn again in the next spawning season.


A rainbow trout is a versatile and widely available fish throughout the year. It is one of the top five sporting fish in North America for its attractive and vibrant color. It is also grown commercially in farms for food. Consuming a rainbow trout provides to you many vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, proteins, and nutrients to you. They are also rich sources of potassium for your body.

They are widely distributed and bred in artificial water bodies. As they are available in large numbers, they are not endangered nor become extinct in the near future. However, excessive fishing for recreation, man-made constructions, climatic changes are affecting the breeding and survival habitats of the rainbow trouts. There are few non-profit organizations like Trout Unlimited in North America which are dedicated to the conservation and development of rainbow trouts.

The dark green nymph was the fly of the day

Heading out to the lake early in the day and hiking in before the heat set in to do a little flyfishing, the dark green nymph was the fly of the day. While I did catch a few panfish on a dark green woolly worm, the action wasn’t nearly as active, nor the strikes as hard, as it was in the dark green nymph. I tried a variety of other things, but the fish didn’t seem interested in much of anything else.

As I travel along the banks were, and waited in and out of the water, I tried to take some pictures of some of the critters I saw on the shore to get some ideas as to what might or might not work. Here are a few photos of the animals and insects I found onshore that had the potential to be fish food and give some inspiration as to what the fish might be eating in the local area.

As a matter of fact, the dark green nymph was so popular that I managed to catch a catfish on a very aggressive strike, which doesn’t happen to me very often. The fact that I was catching fish that one would not normally expect to catch on the fly, tends to indicate that I was using the right type of fly and that they were plentiful enough to attract other varieties of fish to feed.

Popular Panfish Flies

Bluegills are actually a small member of the panfish family that also consists of black crappie, pumpkin seeds, as well as yellow perch. It is a fact that Bluegills are not the largest or most glamorous types of fish to catch using fly rods. However, you nevertheless need to learn the fundamentals which will include studying the equipment, understanding the nature of the water, casting, the presentation, as well as the selection of flies. Moreover, with so many bluegills found in the lakes and ponds scattered all over the country, it will be an enjoyable pastime to indulge in catching bluegills in addition to other types of panfish.

In case you like to catch these fish on a fly rod, we have mentioned the most popular panfish flies as well as bluefish flies obtainable on the market in 2019.

1. Triangle Bug

It is a fact that everyone likes to catch fish on a fly rod at present and, this triangle bug will provide you with the opportunity of doing that flawlessly. It is going to sit low on the water surface and is appropriate for the shallow water situations which make big bluegills rather spooky. The fly is going to land softly and will not spook the fish whatsoever while the long legs which are made from rubber can appear to be rather irresistible. The most significant feature about this particular fly happens to be its design. The unique triangular-shaped fly will also prevent any bluegill featuring a smallmouth from swallowing it quite deeply.

2. Poppers

I always have a number of small poppers in my tackle for those days when the surface action is plentiful. Poppers have of over the years netted me server bass and crappy as well as some rather large panfish. The noise made by poppers on the surface attracts the fish out from undercover to investigate.

3. Soft Hackles

A subsurface fly which is presented properly will be able to provide you with much entertainment while you are watching a large bluegill grabbing a fly from the surface. Similar to any other fish out there, a Bluegill will be doing most of its feeding while it is under the water surface. It is possible to fish a soft hackle fly all through the year without any problem at all. You can easily mimic virtually everything that is consumed by the bluegill simply by pairing the color and the size of the fly.

4. Mop Dragon

You’ll come across dragonflies everywhere you fish nowadays, so, the Mop Dragon nymph will be welcome almost every where by the fish. A dragonfly will prove to be a better meal than the damselfly for a large fish and there using a slightly larger hook will give your Mop Dragon the appearance of being a better meal. the Mop Dragon nymph mimics a dragonfly nymph and will help you to catch larger panfish.

5. Damselfly Nymph

You will find damselfly nymphs almost on every river or pond where you will be fishing out there. These types of insects happen to be a delicious mouthful for the bluegills in particular. Although you’ll come across various types of damselfly nymphs at present, this green-eyed nymph will not disappoint you after all. In case you’re given a choice, then you should go for this one.

6. Woolly Worm

The woolly (wooly) worm is a classic pattern and it has been around for a long time. The woolly (wooly) worm will catch bluegills throughout the day, and the hardest part will be to make a decision regarding what color to go for and the panfish color of choice will change based on the season and watercolor and lighting.

7. James Wood Bucktail

The James Wood Bucktail fly happens to be a smallmouth bass pattern. The James Wood Bucktail fly mimics a baby sunfish. Although it does not appear like a sunfish by any means, it will make the fish think differently. It comes with a fantastic large bluegill pattern and is able to catch on perch, crappie, pickerel, and bass. The James Wood Bucktail fly comes with an effective style which can be tied with other color combos so as to mimic immature crappie, pumpkinseeds, pickerel, and bass.

8. The Bream Killer

It has been a long time since the original Bream (Brim) Killer was introduced on the market. The Bream Killer is that it is quite versatile and weighted to produce a gradual sinking pattern which no bluegill will be able to resist.

9. Wiggler Nymph

The Wiggler Nymph has a popular classic design which is a fantastic option for any fisherman when the fish is holding somewhat deeper and a fly will be required to reach them. It is suggested to tie this particular pattern using a weighted underbody to get the fly deep quickly.

10. Foam Spider

The awesome Foam Spider is available in gray, black, or brown color and you can easily use it in areas close to the shoreline vegetation. In fact, it is one of the simplest flies around which you can use for catching bluegills. You simply need to cast the fly out into the areas where the fish are feeding and then allow it to remain there until you receive a strike.


Now you are aware of the most popular panfish flies on the market at present. Your next task will be to learn where you will be able to find bluegill in large numbers while pond fishing throughout the country.


Writing and The Written Word

Snakin’ wood down the mount’ins,
Fishin’ the little streams;
Smokin’ my pipe in the twilight,
An’ dreamin’ over old dreams;

Breathin’ the breath o’ the cool snows,
Sniffin’ the scent o’ the pine;
Watchin’ the hurryin’ river,
An’ hearin’ the coyotes whine.

This is life in the mount’ins,
Summer an’ winter an’ fall,
Up to the rainy springtime,
When the birds begin to call.

Then I fix my rod and tackle,
I read, I smoke an’ I sing.
Glad like the birds to be livin’—
Livin’ the life of a king!

—Louise Paley

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