Summer Steelhead, Spring Chinook and the Delicious Thing They Have in Common

In Lee Geist, Washington by Kyle Smith

By Lee Geist

Summer Steelhead, Spring Chinook and the Delicious Thing They Have in Common.

Thick lines of fat segmented by beautiful bright flesh all bundled together and sweating on the BBQ. These days I can’t even look at a picture of a Springer without my mouth watering and the same goes for a brand new hatchery summer. It is pretty much unanimous amongst Pacific Northwest anglers; these early fish just taste better.

But what is it that makes them taste so good?

Spring Chinook and summer steelhead migrate early and spend more time in the river than their fall and winter counter parts. Starving in a river for so long requires hefty fat stores. This extra fat makes all the difference to your taste buds and it’s why these critters are so dang sought after.

 You can thank a gene mutation to GREB1L for all that delicious and nutritious fat. Summer steelhead and spring Chinook have this mutation in common and it is this mutation that causes their early migration. Calling it special is an understatement of epic proportions; in fact this mutation happened once in the past 15 million years and it is not likely to happen again.  

A combination of habitat loss, degradation of life history diversity and a past riddled in uncontrolled human appetite has left these fish struggling throughout much of their range. Given the proper chance this gene mutation and the rich and flavorful fat that comes with it could be here for future generations.

Check back to the blog and Wild Steelheaders social when Lee will provide his tips and tricks for smoking these delicious critters.