Steelhead is a form of Rainbow Trout that instead of spending it’s entire life in freshwater streams, goes to sea and returns in later years to spawn in freshwater, making it an anadromous. Unique amoung Pacific salmonids is the Steelhead’s ability to spawn more than once, where most salmonids’s spawn once and die quickly afterwards. The summer and winter runs differ in where they mature. Summer runs come back from the ocean, and mature in freshwater before spawning. Winter runs mature in the ocean, and spawn quickly after returning to freshwater in the winter. Summer runs are more common in further inland populations (like the Columbia River) and winter runs dominate small coastal streams. Naturually found from California to Alaska and the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia, they have been introduced throughout the world. Steelhead vary widly in size and weight depending on geographic location, but can be as large as 45 inches long and weigh up to 55 pounds.
While many populations of Steelhead are listed under the Endangered Species Act, the group found in the Rogue Basin is not listed. Like other salmonids Steelhead are suffering in many ways from dams, habitat destruction, mining, agriculture, logging, water diversion, urbanization and climate change causing steady declines of most species.