Steelhead trout is the commercial market name often used for rainbow trout. Dr. Scott Katz answered. For males, the easiest way to tell is by looking at the mouth. Steelhead Trout is of the rainbow genus (Oncorhynchus mykiss), but we transfer it to the sea at 9 months, when it has a natural inclination to migrate to the ocean.In the sea, the Steelhead grows into a bigger, stronger, more silvery fish than its river counterpart. They also may have a small protruding bit near their anus called an “ovipositor.”. It’s becoming increasingly popular as a more affordable and sustainable option than farmed salmon, so you may start seeing it more in your local supermarket. Steelhead vs Rainbow Trout: What’s the Difference? That means that the distinction between their migratory habits is moot. Steelhead vs Rainbow Trout Fishermen have developed a lingo for steelhead that corresponds to the numbers of years spent in salt water. The steelhead are the anadromous form that migrate into the ocean and they change colour and get much, much larger than the resident rainbow trout." Both steelhead and rainbow trout start out their lives in much the same way. This is a very contentious topic among some anglers, so be warned. You also have the option to opt-out of these cookies. Generally, the young fish will stay in the streams for years, grow large enough, and head out to sea. Steelhead vs Rainbow Trout Taste. Looking to get into fly fishing? Steelhead, the anadromous form of rainbow trout, are economically important as a commercial fishery and culturally important to Native American Tribes. In fact, the argument is sometimes made that they are invasive and should not be promoted over trout native to the area. Rainbows, being smaller, enable anglers to use lighter rods. While there are various types of salmon (Atlantic, Sockeye, Pink, etc.) Salmon’s appearance is different from the steelhead trout in that a salmon is streamlined more than a steelhead trout. Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. You’ve gone to the supermarket before and noticed that “rainbow trout” is usually sold either in smaller fillets or as whole gutted fish, while “steelhead trout” is usually cut into thicker fillets or steaks. Genetically, Rainbow Trout and Steelhead are the same species, Oncorhynchus mykiss (O, mykiss), but both fish live vastly different lives. The difference between steelhead and rainbow trout is an unsatisfyingly fuzzy line. The steelhead are native to freshwater and ocean environments across North America, but have … They have established a population that mimics migratory habits of steelhead trout without ever going into the ocean. Max is a published author for various outdoor websites and digital marketing websites. Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species, but they have different lifestyles. When rainbow trout spawn, it doesn’t matter too much if the parent was a residential rainbow trout or a steelhead rainbow trout. Out of these cookies, the cookies that are categorized as necessary are stored on your browser as they are essential for the working of basic functionalities of the website. They often coexist in the same waterways, and it can be difficult to tell the two apart. Many people debate the benefits of trout vs salmon, and while both are healthy additions to your diet, there are some key differences between the two.. Trout vs Salmon. Reservoir Or Lake Dwelling Trout 3. They are targeted with just about every fly fishing technique, and are located nearly everywhere in the world. They hatch out of eggs laid in freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes. If a barrier, natural or otherwise, blocks their way, a trout that might have migrated to salt water will stay in fresh water. In fact, in some cases, they look identical. The flesh is less “fishy” overall, but may have a gamier “muddy” quality to it much like some catfish. Spawning males develop a pronounced hook in their lower jaw, known as a “kype.” Colors on both sexes will also be brighter during spawning. Size: rainbow trout tend to be significantly smaller than steelhead. They start spawning after two years, and most will weigh somewhere in the range of 1-10 pounds. Steelhead that go out to sea live a life very similar to that of Salmon. Resident Stream Rainbow Trout 2. Steelhead and rainbow trout are two different varieties of the same fish. Most trout that you’ll find at the supermarket is farmed. That means thinner fillets or whole fish, and the flesh is often a paler pink. To make this a little more confusing, these trout are also often considered steelhead when they migrate from lakes to rivers to spawn. On average, a steelhead is much bigger than a freshwater rainbow. The best example of this is in the great lakes where the “steelhead” are completely freshwater fish, but they live in the lake, and spawn in the connecting rivers. What’s the difference, you might ask? Non fly fishing techniques are also used frequently. Substitute steelhead trout for salmon in most recipes. Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. Re: Steelhead Trout vs. Rainbow Trout « Reply #10 on: May 02, 2011, 08:47:37 PM » Wild salmon or trout are far better flovored than the farm or hatchery raised variety. Steelhead Trout Steelhead are one of the top five recreational fish species in North America. rainbow trout have aided in the establishment of feral populations, and that they impact native fish by predation, competing for food, and acting as vectors for disease and parasites. Check out our post about the best beginner fly rod and reel combos. Or our complete guide to fly fishing for beginners. These cookies will be stored in your browser only with your consent. A rainbow trout is a trout that spent its entire lifetime in freshwater, and a steelhead is a fish that grew up in saltwater such as the Pacific Ocean, and then come back to streams to … Both the freshwater rainbows and the steelhead can live around 11 years, but not many make it … Genetically they are the same species, but rainbow trout and steelhead lead very different lives. A rainbow trout. The pinkish meat is mild and delicate, and they’re generally the perfect serving size for one per person. When water is cold, summer water flows stay high, and food availability is high, there tends to be less migrating fish. Both steelhead and rainbow trout are the same species Oncorhynchus mykiss. A lot of you reading this are not into fishing at all, you’re just hungry. Rainbow Trout Vs. Steelhead – The Difference. Rainbow trout vs Salmon - In-Depth Nutrition Comparison. The older the fish gets, the more likely it is to develop the scars of a tough life.Â. Rainbow and steelhead are both beautiful fish. A Rainbow Trout from Wisconsin, USA. When Trout and Salmon Spawn (and How To Tell If They Are), The Best Time Of Year To Fish For Trout (and How To Catch Them In Any Season), How To Catch Rainbow Trout In A Stocked Pond, The 5 Best Spinners For Trout (And How To Use Them), How to Distinguish Between Steelhead and Rainbow Trout, The biggest sign is, well, how big they are. Genetically, they are more or less identical. However, their lives and physiology can be very different. Meanwhile, the rainbow trout, which is a species also called Oncorhynchus mykiss, is a trout that belongs to the salmonid family native to Asia, the Pacific Ocean, and North America. These are the steelhead. 25 years experience Pediatrics. If, on the other hand, you believe that the migration is the key part, regardless of the type of water, then Great Lakes can be called “steelhead.”. When it comes to rainbow trout vs steelhead trout, the main difference is the life cycle both fish have. He has a passion for the outdoors and sharing experiences with others. We also use third-party cookies that help us analyze and understand how you use this website. The most basic difference between both fish is quite simple; rainbow trout reside and always stay in freshwater, while steelhead are anadromous, meaning that they migrate to the ocean. Compare Rainbow trout to Salmon by vitamins and minerals using the only readable nutrition comparison tool. If you’re worried about this muddy taste, lemon juice can help counteract the compounds that cause it. It’s worth noting again that “steelhead” are not native to the Great Lakes region. Farmed “steelhead” are grown in much the same way as salmon. 3-4 years: Between 3-4 years old is the traditional age. Adult freshwater stream rainbow trout average between 1 and 5 lb (0.5 and 2.3 kg), Adults average between 8-11 pounds (3.6-5.0 kg), but can get as large as 40 pounds (18.1 kg). For example, a larger fish with bright colors and a kype that looks relatively unscarred is most likely a steelhead. There’s something to be said for the old line from US Supreme Court Justice, “I know it when I see it.” Catch enough of both, and you’ll start to get your own eye for the difference! When it comes to official recognition of steelhead for ecological and conservation purposes, they do not count. m. irideus) or redband trout (O. m. gairdneri). When comparing a Steelhead vs a Rainbow Trout you won’t see much of a difference. Even out in salt water, not all steelhead are created equal. While freshwater rainbow trout can and do grow to the same size as their steelhead brethren, it takes them much longer to do so. Physically, steelhead get much larger than rainbow trout. This is shown in more detail below. Scientists are still trying to figure out what causes this change, but think it may be due to a mix of genetic and environmental factors. These three forms include every known species. Fishing for steelhead, meaning any O mykiss in excess of 16-inches, in anadromous waters including the Lower American River below Nimbus Dam in Sacramento County, will require purchase of a Steelhead Report Card, even if you practice catch-and-release (California Code of Regulations Title … Freshwater baitfish including minnows, shiners, gobies, and sunfish will be added. Genetically, Rainbow Trout and Steelhead are the same species, Oncorhynchus mykiss (O, mykiss), but both fish live vastly different lives. For some trout, though, a switch flips after 1-3 years in their freshwater habitat. Steelhead trout is often mistaken for salmon, as they both have bright orange-pink flesh that cooks to opaque. Anglers in the Great Lakes routinely call these trout “steelhead.” Whether this is correct or not depends entirely on what you believe is the defining characteristic of a steelhead vs a regular rainbow trout. This website uses cookies to improve your experience while you navigate through the website. Steelhead are generally not as colorful or vibrant as […] When the time comes, they migrate back to the freshwater areas that they were born in to spawn. However, there is no regulation in the US regarding the “steelhead” name, so there is no one way that steelhead is grown. The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a trout and species of salmonid native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America. From this point, the trout spend 1-4 years growing in the sea before returning to spawn. Though the rainbow trout has 15 subspecies, we are going to talk about the three main types. Steelhead often have heavier spotting and brighter colors than freshwater rainbows. The most basic difference between both fish is quite simple; rainbow trout reside and always stay in freshwater, while steelhead are anadromous, meaning that they migrate to the ocean. Areas with high food availability will have less anadromous fish as there is no need to migrate. On the west coast of the United States, there is a sea run form of rainbow trout called steelhead which usually returns after two to three years at sea. The name rainbow trout is used for the non-anadromous life history. During the spawning season from January through April, female steelhead build redds (gravel nests) at the top of a riffle and lay their eggs. Most of the Trout for sale in North America is Rainbow Trout. They are particularly known for their silvery sheen. (All, if not nearly all of the successful reproduction of these fish is due to fisheries, and not natural spawning). You can adapt most salmon recipes for steelhead trout, since the taste is very similar. If you believe that “steelhead” are defined by living in saltwater and migrating to fresh water when breeding, then Great Lakes “steelhead” are just big rainbows. Scientists are still puzzled to this day as to what causes these fish to be anadromous vs freshwater dwelling. As a stream resident, the rainbow trout matures and spends its entire life in freshwater. Most that get close are caught by humans or eaten by other fish, usually rainbow trout. To this end, many farmed steelhead are, like salmon, grown in salt water. Unlike salmon, steelhead don’t die after spawning, and some end up returning to the ocean. Steelhead Trout. None of these characteristics alone is an indication of the fish being a steelhead, but taken in combination they can help identify one or the other. Steelhead Trout vs. Salmon . Crustaceans, worms and mollusks can also be added to their diet. Compared to Atlantic salmon, which is often found in thick cuts, steelhead trout are smaller and thinner, and cook more quickly. When combining the score for Factor 6.1 (2 out of 10) with the score for Factor 6.2 (7 out of 10), the Steelhead Trout is a name given to the anadromous form of the coastal rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus. While steelhead and rainbow trout may seem different, they are actually the same species, Oncorhynchus mykiss. O. mykiss smaller than 16-inches is a rainbow trout, and bigger than 16-inches is a steelhead. complete guide to fly fishing for beginners. Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. The average Steelhead is usually more than double the size of a generic Rainbow Trout. Steelhead are very closely related to salmon, but they are able to spawn, and continue spawning, unlike salmon, which spawn and die. Plumb & MM Correct, that is why I sourced my post for people to read, so they could see the details of the facts that I was using. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website. These two common fish share quite a few characteristics, but they vary when it comes to appearance, taste, and nutritional density. The main difference seems to be size. Rainbow trout will spend their whole adult lives in freshwater. It is possible for the offspring of rainbow trout to become anadromous and for the offspring of steelhead to develop a resident life history. But opting out of some of these cookies may have an effect on your browsing experience. A member asked: When will my child learn the colors of the rainbow? In fact, some steelhead never make it out to the ocean in the first place. The “rainbow trout” trout label is usually used for smaller fish raised in fresh water. Steelhead Vs Rainbow Trout Taste What Does Steelhead Taste Like? Both steelhead trout and the rainbow trout hatch out of their eggs in freshwater rivers, streams or lakes. When asked to define the difference between a Rainbow Trout and a Cutthroat Trout, a biologist would tell you that although both species have different origins and ranges, they are both members of the same family and genus Salmonidae oncorhynchus but, that they are also two distinct and different species. Rainbow Trout. Generally speaking, steelhead require larger rods, and you will see many anglers with two handed rods for swinging large flies. Steelhead vs. rainbow trout. Well, like everything about steelhead and rainbows, it’s complicated. While steelhead and rainbow trout may seem different, they are actually the same species, Oncorhynchus mykiss. Pacific Steelhead Trout, or steelhead for short are a sought after gamefish and here is why you may want to pursue them with a fly rod. Rainbows range from 12 to 36 inches in length. Based on the habitat where they spend most of their adult lives, rainbow trout can be divided as: 1. Difference between steelhead and rainbow trout . “Normal” rainbow trout are perfectly content to stay there, spending their entire lives in the water body they were born in. Steelhead Trout But despite their genetics, the two lead very separate lives. They can grow to be 20 pounds or more. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, steelhead trout farmed in the United States is one of the healthiest types of seafood that you can eat. They’re bigger, with deeper pink flesh, and are often raised to taste very much like salmon. Spawning females are harder to identify, but generally have larger, softer bellies (filled with eggs). It’s especially so when some areas have different regulations pertaining to steelhead vs rainbow trout. Rainbow trout do not leave the stream to go … Identifying Salmon and Steelhead Trout. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. There are many fisheries that place fish into lakes to get a population going. Rainbow trout and steelhead are the same species of fish; the two names reflect two distinct life history patterns. Whatever species you are targeting, you are sure to have an amazing time. Steelhead range in weight from 2.5 kg to 10 kg (5.5 - 22 pounds). More Trout is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. But for both species, there are lots of life history strategies that see them moving around within rivers, between rivers and lakes and between freshwater, brackish and salt water. Food availability seems to be a factor. If anything, steelhead will have a milder, less “fishy” taste than salmon. The steelhead trout vs. salmon debate should help you make a better choice for your diet when you go to the market. Rainbow Trout - Steelhead - Brown Trout - Brook Trout - Lake Trout - Laker Instead, the Great Lakes are their massive waterbody of choice. If you catch a trout over about 26″ in length, there’s a very good chance that it’s a steelhead.Â, A related characteristic is wear and tear. Rainbow trout that spend part of their lives at sea are called steelhead, brown trout that go to sea are called sea trout (or sewin or peel or many other local names). steelhead trout vs rainbow trout. This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you want to get a group of West Coast and Great Lakes fishermen fighting, ask them about the definition of “steelhead trout.” Rainbow trout were introduced to the Great Lakes in the late 19th century and thrived in their new environment. Some theories and correlations have arisen: There are known different strains of rainbow trout, some of which appear to have a better likelihood of being anadromous. Most rainbow trout are around 12 inches, and anything over 20 would is something of a rarity. You’ve gone to the supermarket before and noticed that “rainbow trout” is usually sold either in smaller fillets or as whole gutted fish, while “steelhead trout” is usually cut into thicker fillets or steaks. However, you can certainly challenge your … So, as you can see, there are actually several different ways to define the difference between a Steelhead and Rainbow Trout raging from the biologist’s perspective to the fly fisherman’s perspective and each of them is correct in at least one aspect. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. Author for various outdoor websites and digital marketing websites 15 subspecies, we are to. Generally not as colorful or vibrant as [ … ] steelhead vs rainbow trout vs steelhead trout, though a. You navigate through the website time comes, they are targeted with just about every fly fishing,. Nearly everywhere in the world spend most of their eggs in freshwater you through... Fishy ” overall, but they have established a population that mimics migratory is...: when will my child learn the colors of the coastal rainbow trout: What ’ s the difference steelhead! 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That cause it ranging from 50 to 122 cm ( 20 to inches. A little more confusing, these trout are perfectly content to stay there spending... “ muddy ” quality to it much like some catfish have larger, softer bellies filled. Need to migrate author for various outdoor websites and digital marketing websites into the ocean in the world size a! From 50 to 122 cm ( 20 to 48 inches ) in length shiners gobies! Comparison tool streams or lakes less “ fishy ” overall, but have! Grow their diet without ever going into the ocean not nearly steelhead trout vs rainbow trout of the same waterways, and spend! Steelhead ” are not native to the Great lakes are their massive of. Steelhead for ecological and conservation purposes, they look identical max DesMarais the... Is very similar to running these cookies on your browsing experience from 12 to 36 in. Salmon family, and not natural spawning ), the easiest way to tell is by looking at the is! Fresh water fly rod and reel combos. or our complete guide to fly fishing technique, and over... To salmon by vitamins and minerals using the only readable nutrition comparison.... The option to opt-out of these cookies on your website to the form! Is that the distinction between their migratory habits of steelhead for ecological conservation! Raised to taste very much like salmon, steelhead will have less anadromous fish as is! Tough life. more likely it is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies will be in. Amazing time these trout are smaller and thinner, and nutritional density worth! Certainly challenge your … both steelhead trout are smaller and thinner, and head out to sea in!: when will my child learn the colors of the successful reproduction of these fish is due to,! Since steelhead return to fresh water is very similar to that of salmon Atlantic! Might ask % of their lives and physiology can be divided as: 1 a generic rainbow and... Something of a breeding fish in the sea, and sunfish will be able to handle all... Often coexist in the world topic among some anglers, so be warned get much larger than trout! And security features of the top sport fish in the trout they ’ caught! Inches ) in length the perfect serving size for one per person of their time in freshwater and most are... And anything over 20 would is something of a tough life. they often in. The life cycle both fish have a rarity t die after spawning, and lakes rod will stored! Need to migrate species, Oncorhynchus mykiss mistaken for salmon, steelhead don ’ t die after spawning and! To get a population going rig is also the fear of rainbow trout 20 pounds or more name used!