Steelhead Fishing Regulations

Steelhead Fishing Regulations

Steelhead fishing is popular in coastal states and a few others, like Idaho, where they migrate up the rivers in the summer and winter. The following regulations were instituted, and need to be followed, to keep fish populations healthy. This article describes steelhead fishing regulations in the state of Oregon, though you’ll find similar elsewhere.


First, always get a copy of your state’s Fishing Regulations when you purchase your fishing license. These provide the full regulations on every species and fishing locations for the given state.

License to Fish

Everyone intending to fish who is over the age of 18 (in Oregon) needs to buy a regular fishing license. They also need to purchase a steelhead and salmon tag. Altogether, this runs about $40. There is space on the steelhead tag to write your catch, along with instructions on identify the location.

Identify Steelhead

Steelhead are sometimes referred to as metalheads because they’re chrome, silver or silvery green in color. The top is darker and has more spots while the bottom is sheer silver. This two-tone quality distinguishes them from salmon. A jack salmon (young salmon) usually appears darker than a steelhead. Steelhead are actually sea-run trout but get two or three times longer than most trout species.

Regulations on Steelhead

The native population of steelhead is low in Oregon, so fishers can only keep fin-clipped, hatchery, fish. Your regulation book will show pictures of both fin-clipped and native steelhead. Look for this small fin on the back between the large fin in the center of the back and the tail. If it’s there, you need might need to release the fish, depending on your location. Make sure to check your state’s book about regulations on native and hatchery steelhead.

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Locations to Fish

The regulations will list areas of river that are open to steelhead fishing and areas that are closed. Be aware of this, and look for any signs by the river, such as No Angling, or Fly Fishing Only. If you are fishing near a closed area, look for yellow poles that mark the end of the legal fishing area.