By Kurt Zimmerman, Tim Frahm and Sam Davidson
Article reprinted with permission of Osprey Magazine
Kurt Zimmerman is Southern California Regional Manager for California Trout. Tim Frahm and Sam Davidson are California Central Coast Steelhead Coordinator and California Communications Manager for Trout Unlimited. Visit their web sites at: www.caltrout.org www.tucalifornia.org
Many anglers consider the steelhead trout (O. mykiss) the “perfect fish.” Steelhead are widely revered for their power and grace in the water, and for the high challenge of actually catching one. Sport fishing for steelhead is a major contributor to many local economies along the California coast.
Steelhead are rainbow trout exhibiting an anadromous (i.e., migrating to and from the ocean) life history. Unlike salmon, however, steelhead do not perish after the first spawning season, and may complete the cycle of anadromy multiple times.
Steelhead populations have declined precipitously across much of their range along the west coast of North America. Yet, steelhead are a remarkably resilient salmonid, and even in the most degraded habitats, remnant populations still persist. This fact, and the legal status of steelhead, have led to a multi-party effort to recover the species south of San Francisco Bay by restoring habitat, improving streamflows and fish passage opportunities, and even rescuing juveniles, as river segments dry up or become disconnected during summer. For more than two decades, steelhead advocacy groups such as California Trout (CalTrout) and Trout Unlimited have driven this effort, working in partnership with local steelhead conservation organizations, resource agencies, municipalities, agricultural interests, and water providers.