Wild and Wet Winter — Steelhead Handling

California steelhead

It’s Wednesday’s Wild and Wet Winter … a California Trout, Keepemwet Fishing and Lost Coast Outfitters initiative celebrating California’s wild winter steelhead.

Californian’s have long recognized the importance of a good snow pack in meeting the state’s water demands.  We know too well the effects of multi-year, extreme drought.  With the most recent storm bringing snow levels to almost 150% of year to date norms, there are more than a few NorCal steelhead anglers thinking, “enough is enough” or at least “give us a little break”.

Over the past few weeks we’ve talked about minimizing, if not eliminating, air exposure air and using the right tackle to land fish quickly and minimize stress.   A couple of other things to keep in mind:

1) Hold fish over water and not over boats or land.   Fish are slippery creatures and can easily be dropped.   That way if dropped, it falls back into the water unharmed.

2) Carry pliers, hemos, or some other hook removal device.  We know you’re fishing barbless, and a larger size hook should be easy to pluck from a steelhead’s mouth, but something to help remove a deeply taken fly, lure or bait is essential to have on hand.

3) Grip fish carefully: Fish have sensitive internal organs, so hold them lightly without squeezing. Avoid placing your hand over their mouth and gills as it obstructs breathing. With larger fish, grip the tail wrist with “A-Ok” finger formation and gently support the body under the front fins

4) Carefully revive fish: If a fish cannot swim away on it’s own it may need reviving.  Hold its head facing upstream so that the water runs in the mouth and through the gills.


Here’s hoping you get some time on the river, and join us in “optimizing the outcome of each fish we encounter”


CalTrout:  to learn more about California winter run steelhead

Keepemwet Fishing:  to learn more about Keepemwet priniciples

Lost Coast Outfitters:  blog on many things fly fishing related