The Steelhead are an incredibly impressive species deriving as a form of rainbow trout and also known as the coastal rainbow trout. The adaptability of this fish is what have made them so unique to scientists and fishermen alike. Expressing anadromy unlike Salmon, Steelhead spawn in streams and rivers, but have the ability to live most of their lives in the ocean.
The migration between freshwater and saltwater actually plays a critical role in reproductive success of this species. Should that journey to or from the ocean and stream bear any danger, offspring are less likely to survive and adult Steelhead are less likely to spawn more than once. Over the years, the Steelhead population has been significantly declining.
Distinct Population Segments (DPS) are a vertebrate population that are discrete or significant from the entire species through the Endangered Species Act. The DPS of Steelhead trout are listed as “threatened” or “endangered” on the Coast of California.
Many factors are involved reasoning behind why this species is at risk of extinction. As natural survivors, this fish species can adapt to seasonally dry streams. Although, California’s extreme climate and droughts can pose a threat to the species spawning. Thousands of Steelhead trout used to return to California’s streams to spawn each year. Over time, anthropogenic threats such as urban development, dams, and water diversions have prevented this species from reaching their historic spawning grounds.
Photo From: California Trout
A scientific report found that should this decline in population continue, up to 45% of California’s native salmon, steelhead, and trout could be extinct in a matter of 50 years. Bringing forth opportunities to reverse this trend, we need to protect this species now more than ever. Ensuring this habitat and river ecosystems are protected, we can give Steelhead a better chance at replenishing population numbers.
Another solution to act on is to increase the focus on reducing the stress of this fish during seasonal droughts. By making an effort to keep water sources stable during droughts and effects of climate change reproduction of Steelhead would become more progressive.
Lastly, habitat restoration is a critical need for this species. Improving conditions among the migratory path would make habitats once again productive for Steelhead.
Barry Nerhus had the rare opportunity film a Steelhead Trout in Southern California
Moving forward, protecting this species and maintain healthy populations of California’s native fish should be a priority. Conserving our environment and natural habitats is a vital part of keeping endangered species alive. Acting now before it’s too late will give Steelhead a chance to thrive once again.