The Deschutes River is world famous for its trout fisheries including native populations of Columbia River redband trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss ssp.), also called "redsides," and steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss ssp.). Both are types of rainbow trout, but each have different life histories. Redband trout spend their entire life cycle in fresh water, while steelhead, like salmon, spend part of their lives in the ocean. The distribution and abundance of both redband and steelhead trout have declined in the Deschutes Basin. In 1999, the US Fish and Wildlife Service listed the middle Columbia steelhead as a threatened species -- the Deschutes steelhead are part of this group.
Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus tshawytscha), also known as King salmon are the largest of the Pacific salmon and can grow to be over 100 pounds. These fish have historically been an important food source for Native Americans, including members of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. Visitors to Sherar Falls, the scenic rapids on the lower Deschutes, can view fishing platforms built by tribal members who are carrying on a tradition practiced for hundreds of years. Chinook salmon in the Deschutes River are grouped into two runs, based on when the adult fish return to the river to spawn.