Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are a migratory species of fish that are native to the Morro Bay watershed. Steelhead are considered great indicators of stream health since they require cold, clean water, and complex habitat to survive. While once abundant along the Central Coast, steelhead are now federally listed as a threatened species. Without further protection, they are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. The Estuary Program prioritizes projects that benefit steelhead due to their ecological significance and their status as a threatened species.

Managing Predators

While the Morro Bay watershed used to be home to a healthy population of steelhead, their numbers have declined in recent years. A significant roadblock in the way of steelhead recovery is the presence of an invasive species of fish called the Sacramento pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus grandis)Pikeminnow predate on juvenile steelhead and compete with steelhead at all life stages for food and habitat. The Estuary Program partnered with Stillwater Sciences to manage invasive pikeminnow in the watershed beginning in 2017. Since then, over 800 pikeminnow have been removed from Chorro Creek. The Estuary Program also works with the California Conservation Corps to conduct snorkel surveys before and after pikeminnow removal efforts to evaluate pikeminnow and steelhead presence in the watershed. 

Want to Learn More?

Every three years, the Estuary Program publishes a report that answers common questions about the Morro Bay estuary and surrounding watershed. One of our most common questions is: Does the estuary and watershed support a healthy population of steelhead trout?  If you’re interested to learn more, check out our 2023 State of the Bay Steelhead indicator page.

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