Nicholas’ Salmon Journal, February 7, 2011
Sorry so sorry I am way behind promised deep scientific studies on the feeding habits of winter steelhead. Near as I can tell, winter steelhead do not eat much. The things they do eat are silly. I have friends who have reported stomach contents of roughly a hundred winter steelhead. Non Kelts. Kelts do not count. Sometimes they will eat burgers and fries. So no, post-spawning steelhead do not count.
Maybe wild fish eat a lot of food like junk or junk like food but as I almost never catch any winter steelhead anyway, maybe they do not eat anything either. That would make sense because if they ate Bunny Tube leeches and Intruder style flies as part of their normal diet then well I would catch many many winter steelhead but I do not so they must not either the former anyway you know what I mean right?
So of these hundred or so steelhead bellies my actual fish catching friends have reported on were included roughly 10% with anything whatsoever in their guts besides guts. Among the non guts items were bird feathers (2 fish); grey cruddy looking styrofoam (3 fish); rubber fake eggs or maybe fake rubber eggs (1 fish); half a ghost shrimp (1 fish); a dab of cured salmon eggs (1 fish); and gammarid amphipods (3 fish).
Not one steelhead fly was found in any steelhead stomach. Not one.
Therefore, ladies and gents, we could perhaps up our catch rates considerably by tying flies that look like feathers, styrofoam, and # 14 Scuds.
There is no reason to doubt people who have reported summer steelhead with bellies full of fresh salmon eggs that floated free from spawning Chinook that were working their redds, snails, caddis pupae, stonefly nymphs, headless smolts, sticks, rocks, and beer nuts.
I believe all these stories. I really do. You should too.
Jay Nicholas, February 07, 2011