The Kids' Page - Steelhead Trout

February, 2018

Steelhead Trout

Arborimus pomo

Steelhead pair spawning on Pena Creek. Photo: Will Boucher, California Sea Grant.

Did you know that steelhead trout and rainbow trout are the same species of sh? They are! But because they live di erently, they don’t look exactly the same. Steelhead and rainbow trout are born in freshwater, but as steelhead grow, they migrate out to the salty ocean for adulthood. Steelhead then later migrate back to freshwater, to the same river where they were born, to spawn a new generation of fish.

Steelhead have speckles over most of their body, with a pink to red stripe along their sides. In the ocean, steelhead are torpedo-shaped, very silvery and even brassy in color on their upper bodies.

Young steelhead feed primarily on very tiny zooplankton. Adults feed on insects, mollusks and crustaceans, sh eggs, and even small sh (including trout!). Steelhead are an important food for many animals such as birds, bears, river otters, raccoons, seals, sea lions, and orcas.

Unfortunately, many steelhead are endangered. Dams in rivers can block the sh from being able to migrate upriver to spawn. Bad logging and agriculture practices can pollute waterways, raise water temperatures, and reduce the water ows steelhead need to survive.

Steelhead illustration by HL Todd, Wikimedia CC.

Color me! Steelhead illustration by HL Todd, Wikimedia CC.

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