While out netting on the Kenai river, we pulled a peculiar fish out of the net. It had small, distinct spots all over its back, extending from the entirety of its tail, onto its adipose fin, its dorsal fin, and all the way to its nose. By its size, color, and shape, it looked like a sockeye, but no sockeye has spots like that. We briefly considered that it could be a silver, but they don’t have distinct spots all over their tail like that, and a chinook’s mouth would be black, and the spots on its back would be larger and ovular.
We took pictures and released the mystery fish. A few texts and google searches later, we had our answer—it was a Kasilof river steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss.
The steelhead is the anadromous form of the rainbow trout. It lives in salt-water primarily, and migrates upriver to spawn. These fish are iteroparous, which means they can spawn multiple times, which differentiates them from Pacific salmon (Pacific salmon are semelparous, just in case you wanted to know). It is curious that a fish more known for being in the Kasilof river found its way into the Kenai, however, it’s not too hard to believe since the mouths of both rivers are close together. It’s possible that this individual simply got confused and followed a group of sockeye into the Kenai.