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How to Tell a Coho Salmon from a Steelhead Trout

Coho salmon and steelhead trout will soon both inhabit the Lagunitas Watershed at the same time.  SPAWN’s Watershed Biologist Preston Brown explains how you can tell the two endangered fish apart with some simple tips!

Coho Salmon Steelhead Trout
  • Male coho salmon have the big noses called a ‘kypes.’
  • When female coho salmon dig nests called redds,  their scales flake off, leaving large white areas on their tails where bones and cartilage are exposed. Coho salmon males have dark red markings running along their bellies from their gills to pelvic fins.
  • Coho salmon have large, irregularly-shaped spots on their backs.
  • Steelhead males do not have ‘kyps’ nor do  their scales flake off and expose their cartilage.
  • Steelhead trout have numerous, small, even spots on their backs.
  •  Steelhead are olive green and silver in color overall, with a large pink stripe on their mid-section called a lateral line.