Young winter steelhead fry, freshly hatched in the cold waters of the the North Santiam River, face a long and harrowing journey that takes them to the sea and back.
In spring through early summer of their second year, steelhead smolts from the North Santiam River enter the sea and move directly offshore. Beyond that, very little is known about the specifics of marine habitat use and distribution of Oregon steelhead.
But in general North American steelhead (from Canada, the Northwest, and California) have moved well offshore and are concentrated in the western Gulf of Alaska by late summer.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s researchers learned that North American steelhead prefer a particularly narrow range of water temperatures. Steelhead in the northern Pacific are found in waters between 37° and 61°, and nearly 96% were found in waters colder than 54°.
As water temperatures rise, oceanic steelhead press northward and westward to stay within their preferred temperature range.