Steelhead river getting too crowded? Target these secret fish-holding spots that most anglers overlook


Pressured steelhead will lurk in surprisingly small hidden pockets (photo: California Sea Grant)


Steelhead are fairly predictable, in that they’ll stack up in the exact same places each autumn as they migrate up the tributaries (these same patterns should generally hold true with West Coast steelhead, too). Early in the fall, the fish sometimes stage in out-of-the-way parts of the river where they won’t be harassed by the spawning Pacific salmon, especially big chinooks, that migrate up the same rivers. As the salmon die off, however, the steelhead then move into the kind of classic pools and runs you’d expect to find them.

The problem is, many anglers know exactly where to find these pockets, so they get a lot of fishing pressure. When that happens, some steelhead drop out of the prime holding locations and move into smaller, less noticeable spots most anglers walk right past without giving a second thought. Those are the secret areas you want to find.


Just keep in mind that fishing for hidden steelhead is not a numbers game. These are the fish to look for when you can only get to the river on weekend afternoons, and the classic spots are thronged with crowds. The key to catching these hidden chromers is to do your research, then employ subtler-than-usual fishing tactics.