Helping Our Peninsula's Environment
West Coast Steelhead

(Oncorhynchus mykiss)

The West Coast Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) lives in all Monterey County rivers and most streams including the Carmel River, Big Sur River, Salinas River, Potrero Creek, Robinson Canyon Creek, Garzas Creek, San Clemente Creek, and San Jose Creek. 

It is genetically identical to rainbow trout and lives in the same rivers, but it has a different life cycle. The rainbow trout remains in its home stream, but the steelhead goes out to sea and returns to its home river to spawn - as many as four times.

(Life cycle chart courtesy of City of San Luis Obisbo)

The salmonid was Federally listed as Threatened and Endangered on August 18 1997 [62 FR 43937] because Southern steelhead have been either significantly depleted or extirpated in all rivers and streams in which they historically occurred. Estimates of historical run sizes are highly subjective and probably correct only within an order of magnitude (USFWS 1991).

There is overwhelming evidence that existing levels of Carmel River pumping is killing the US-Endangered Species Act (FESA) listed species - the West Coast Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and the California Red-Legged Frog (Rana aurora draytonii).

Carmel River Steelhead Population Importance:

"...given the importance of the Carmel River Steelhead population for recovery of steelhead coastwide,..." US-National Marine Fisheries Service, SW Region letter May 20 1996

Steelhead typically spawn and rear in the headwaters and tributaries of rivers, rather than in the mainstems. The ability of steelhead to access networks of smaller tributaries at higher elevations is far more important than having a steady flow in a single low elevation, mainstem channel that is urbanized and channelized with simplified habitat.

Steelhead are extremely sensitive to water temperature, both too hot and too cold. Steelhead can only live in water temp range 43 - 68 degrees. The upper lethal temperature is considered to be 77 degrees F.

Steelhead Image1

Steelhead Image 2

Steelhead Image 3

Steelhead Info

Maps of Steelhead Habitat


Carmel River Steelhead Association National Marine Fisheries (NOAA)
Feedback - Info(at) 

831 / 624-6500 P.O. Box 1495, Carmel, CA 93921

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This Page Last Updated August 5, 2003