Steelhead that aren't 16 inches YET...

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Is it fair to say that a steelhead isn't a steelhead just because it isn't 16 inches long yet? I live on the lower American River and I catch half pounders all the time, of course getting a few real chunky 20-30 inch steelhead each year, but mostly "half pounders" as we often call them. Though some of them are quite large, around 15 inches and I see people keep them. Even though the law specifies that it is a regular trout below 16", is it? The hatchery on this river raises steelhead, not just planter trout for local lakes. They only plant our river with young steelhead strain trout, indicated by the rear adipose fin being clipped. It makes me mad when I see guys keeping two or three of these fish at a time because, to me, they are just steelhead who haven't gotten a chance to migrate to sea and back. Its like saying that a deer isn't the same species until it grows its antlers. It is still the same animal. In fact if we don't let people hunt young animals, why are we letting them keep adolecent fish who haven't gotten a chance to grow and spawn? In the end, I just want our river to be filled with more adult steelhead, thats all. Its the principal of it too, just let them go man.. Wouldn't you rather catch that same fish after it's gotten a chance to gain 10 lbs? Thoughts please.


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