Steelhead fishery management

Coastal steelhead
Photo by Chase Gunnell
A wild winter steelhead caught in a Washington coastal river on the Olympic Peninsula held in the water prior to release. 

Steelhead, a sea-going rainbow trout that can exceed 30 pounds, is the Washington State Fish and an icon of the Pacific Northwest that has been a source of important cultural and economic benefits throughout the region’s history.

To learn about steelhead fishery management for various rivers or regions, please use the links below or review our hatchery steelhead smolt stocking webpage

Though often overshadowed by their cousins, the Pacific salmon, steelhead are an indicator of ecosystem health and are important culturally to both recreational anglers and Indigenous people. 

Unlike salmon, steelhead can survive spawning and return to spawn more than once. Steelhead spend a significant portion of their juvenile and adult life stages in freshwater, making them particularly susceptible to habitat degradation and other pressures.

While steelhead are sometimes known as a “fish of a thousand casts,” fishing for them does not require a boat or expensive gear, making it a relatively accessible fishery. Tips for steelhead fishing etiquette are available in this blog post

WDFW is committed to supporting steelhead recovery through robust steelhead management, guided by our Statewide Steelhead Management Plan. Learn more about salmon and steelhead co-management on this webpage.

Washington and other western states have both winter-run and summer-run steelhead populations, depending on the river and habitat conditions. More details about the geographic range, distinct population segments (DPS), where to fish, and the ongoing conservation of steelhead is available on our steelhead species page