The smolts that successfully survive the journey to the ocean will spend one to three years before returning to Idaho. As the spawning season approaches, adult steelhead leave their feeding grounds in the sea and battle their way upstream hundreds of miles to the place of their birth. When they reach native waters, they rest about a month before spawning.
Tributary streams of the Snake and Columbia Rivers are the native spawning grounds for a variety of ocean migrating (anadromous) species, such as chinook and sockeye salmon, and others including the steelhead trout raised here.
Unlike Pacific salmon which inevitably die after spawning, wild post spawn steelhead, called kelts, may return to the sea and return to spawn again.
Anglers fish for returning steelhead through the winter months until April. Steelhead with adipose fin clips can be kept within Idaho Fish and Game Regulations. Unclipped or wild steelhead must be returned to the river unharmed.