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northernfly

Atlantic salmon vs Steelhead

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I never had the opportunity to fish for steelhead but I would like to do a fishing trip to British Columbia someday. When I was a student I spent 2 whole summers in BC without wetting a line...I guess I was too busy picking cherries and partying back then...what a major mistake! So I have a couples of questions about steelhead.

Steelhead and Atlantic salmon are considered by many to be the toughest fish to catch. I experienced it with the Atlantics but I would like to know wich one do you guys think is the toughest to catch?

For those of you that have caught both species wich one would you say pull up the best fight pound for pound? Atlantics tend to jump out of the water when hooked just like the LLS do. What about the steelhead do they jump?

After reading RAW's recent post (steelhead success 101,102 and 103) and some fishing reports from Pulaski I have a question about the differences between wild steelhead fishing on the west coast and fishing in the great lake tribs. In the stories about wild steelhead fishing on the west coast it looks like normal to go a couples days without catching any fish while people in Pulaski seems to catch one fish after another... How's that since it's the same specie of fish? Also do the steelhead from the great lake fight as hard as the wild steelhead from the west coast?

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I am sure that this will spawn some varying commentary about fishing for native fish versus introduced fish, and there is a good amount of snobbery amognst Steelheaders.  I've not caught a west coast steelhead, nor an atlantic, so my input is moot.  But... i can say that fishing on the great lakes is great fun, because it is essentially trout fishing for massive trout.  But I wouldn't settle for that as my sole Steelhead bucket list.  I would very much like to catch a wild, ocean dwelling one, just the same as i would for an atlantic.  

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I have caught many NY steelhead and have caught wild ones in Canada(is what they claim) cause they don't stock them and I have caught Atlantics in New Brunswick. The plantics where way hard but I think because of the methods to catch them, we were swinging flies only when I switched to a nymphing method did I caught the Atlantics could of just been luck.

with that said the guys who swing for stealhead in NY has the same results as the guys swinging for wild steelhead  but the guys out west nymphing with egg flies I think catch more fish

I will say if I did not have the experience of NY I would of never been able to land the Atlantic salmon

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I've caught both. Atlantics are harder to get to strike. Steelhead fight better.

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I've never caught a west coast steelhead, but I have many guide friends with whom we discuss the differences, West coast steelhead are mostly ocean run fish and Lake Ontario fish are lake born and do not exit. West coast rivers are faster on avg. and get more guys swinging flies, On the Salmon River there are about 2 months that are decent for swinging flies(October and Nov).this is what I call hot fish, always on the move and will race 6-10' to eat.(Oswego is where its really noticeable) All tribs of Lake Ontario get salmon starting in  August till Nov. The eggs are the winter food for Browns, Rainbows and Steelhead and rivers are not long. So the the BRS's look for spawning salmon and the spewn eggs that are 5-6 months available. So catching Steelhead in NY is much more predicable and close.

Atlantic salmon were plentiful when there was a stocking program which never made it.Atlantics were too slow moving the rivers and fell pray to illegal techniques. In fishing Cape Breton I found Atlantic fishing somewhat easy in grilse time and far more difficult in fall do to condition's. Certainly the lore of Atlantics is an amazing tradition which most older guys appreciate.

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11 hours ago, northernfly said:

I never had the opportunity to fish for steelhead but I would like to do a fishing trip to British Columbia someday. When I was a student I spent 2 whole summers in BC without wetting a line...I guess I was too busy picking cherries and partying back then...what a major mistake! So I have a couples of questions about steelhead.

Steelhead and Atlantic salmon are considered by many to be the toughest fish to catch. I experienced it with the Atlantics but I would like to know wich one do you guys think is the toughest to catch?

For those of you that have caught both species wich one would you say pull up the best fight pound for pound? Atlantics tend to jump out of the water when hooked just like the LLS do. What about the steelhead do they jump?

After reading RAW's recent post (steelhead success 101,102 and 103) and some fishing reports from Pulaski I have a question about the differences between wild steelhead fishing on the west coast and fishing in the great lake tribs. In the stories about wild steelhead fishing on the west coast it looks like normal to go a couples days without catching any fish while people in Pulaski seems to catch one fish after another... How's that since it's the same specie of fish? Also do the steelhead from the great lake fight as hard as the wild steelhead from the west coast?

The steelhead are just as acrobatic as atlantics ,we try to keep them down due to conditions with obstacles, brush, stumps etc. Each fish has its fighting attributes, I prefer Steelhead, as you can get them to act any way you want by how you  fight them. Trolling the Lake we get steelhead to jump 4' out of the water and cross 2-3 lines. They go nuts when there's  heavy resistance on the line. The DSR and Oswego draw very large numbers of Canadians who look to get that jumping fish.

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Techniically, they are the same species; all rainbows, anadromous or not, west coast or Great Lakes, Montana spring creek or English chalk stream, are Onchorynchus mykiss.  In fact, in any given batch of offsping from the same two parents which have access to the ocean, there will be some fish that "stay home" in their natal rivers (given proper conditions) and become "rainbows" and others that will migrate to sea and become "steelhead".  Turns out, it's a slight difference in metabolisms among individuals that drives the different behaviors and life histories. Individuals with less efficient metabolisms and/or which are born in less suitable riverine habitats tend to migrate to sea and more abundant sources of protein.  Individuals with more efficient metabolisms and/or extremely rich home river environments tend to stay put.   Biologist John MacMillan did a great piece on this in April Vokey's podcast "Anchored" a few months back.

West Coast steelhead, I think, have a reputation for being harder to catch for a few reasons.  One is that there are far, far fewer of them per river mile than you will find in GL tributaries.  Those West Coast rivers are also much bigger and deeper.  In other words, there's a ton of places to fish where there aren't many (or even any) fish; consequently, your odds of actually putting a fly in front of more than a handful of fish in a day are quite slim.  Mostly.  There are exceptions, and occasionally, you will hear about a certain river on a certain day or at a certain time that gave up five fish a day.  Back in the late 80's, commercial fisherman in BC went on strike and nets in the main migratory channels went down.  There were reports of double digit steelhead days and smoked Bogdans on the Babine (https://thebigpull.wordpress.com/category/bc/)

GL tribs are smaller, shalloower, and see far higher concentrations of fish.  Ray Charles could put a fly in front of at least a few fish a day.  A guide friend who plies the western end of NY state has 30+ fish days.  If you can chuck n' duck - a very effective strategy for putting a fly right in a steelie's face - you have a great chance to find a feeding fish.  That particular technique isn't well suited to the broader, deeper west coast rivers where the name of the game is to cover as much water as possible.  That's where the swing makes sense.

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Thank you all for the replies there's great info in there.

So I understand that the explanation for the difference in success rate between west coast steelhead fishing vs GL tribs is mostly a matter of fish concentration due to numbers of fish and rivers size. 

It seems that Atlantics are harder to get a strike than steelhead. I learned from the info provided by RAW that the steelhead do feed while they are in the rivers wich is a big difference with the Atlantics.

12 hours ago, Aldo said:

Techniically, they are the same species; all rainbows, anadromous or not, west coast or Great Lakes, Montana spring creek or English chalk stream, are Onchorynchus mykiss.  In fact, in any given batch of offsping from the same two parents which have access to the ocean, there will be some fish that "stay home" in their natal rivers (given proper conditions) and become "rainbows" and others that will migrate to sea and become "steelhead".  Turns out, it's a slight difference in metabolisms among individuals that drives the different behaviors and life histories. Individuals with less efficient metabolisms and/or which are born in less suitable riverine habitats tend to migrate to sea and more abundant sources of protein.  Individuals with more efficient metabolisms and/or extremely rich home river environments tend to stay put.   Biologist John MacMillan did a great piece on this in April Vokey's podcast "Anchored" a few months back.

 

That's great explanation Aldo! I read the same thing a couples years ago about how some brookies from a same population will choose to stay in freswater while others will migrate to the St-Lawrence and become sea run brookies. I'll get my hand on that podcast for sure.

On 12/15/2017 at 6:17 AM, Kevin McKay said:

I have caught many NY steelhead and have caught wild ones in Canada(is what they claim) cause they don't stock them and I have caught Atlantics in New Brunswick. The plantics where way hard but I think because of the methods to catch them, we were swinging flies only when I switched to a nymphing method did I caught the Atlantics could of just been luck.

with that said the guys who swing for stealhead in NY has the same results as the guys swinging for wild steelhead  but the guys out west nymphing with egg flies I think catch more fish

I will say if I did not have the experience of NY I would of never been able to land the Atlantic salmon

Kevin you said that you caught Atlantics after switching to a nymphing method in New Brunswick. I'm curious about the fishing regulations regarding weighted flies on New Brunswick' salmon rivers...Is it allowed? In Quebec it's forbidden to use weighted flies (beadheads, dumbell eyes, lead wire...etc) or split shot on any Atlantic salmon river...even if you're fishing for sea run brookies.

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3 hours ago, cap said:

I rate them 1) Atlantics, 2) West Coast Steelhead, 3) Great Lakes Steelhead. 

on what basis? Fight, challenge ,allure, history

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Atlantics in the summer-fall, under normal AS regs, are probably the hardest fly-fishing challenge you will face. There are a few places that allow sinktips and the sort but I think that takes away from it.....

They put up a stink of a fight. Only AS I've caught was 37" and fought me for over 40 minutes..I hated fighting the fish for that long but it wouldn't f'n give in....

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3 hours ago, cap said:

all of the above and more....

Great answer ;)

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3 hours ago, Kevin McKay said:

Didn't say I used weight I just stopped casting down and across swing

i would flip and mend and mend getting fly deeper 

Ok I see.

A friend of mine caught a couples Atlantics last summer by doing something similar. He caught them dead drifting a olive wooly bugger.

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