Energetic responses of steelhead Oncorhynchus mykiss to climate-driven changes in marine conditions are expected to affect the species’ ocean distribution, feeding, growth, and survival. With a unique 18-year data series (1991–2008) for steelhead sampled in the open ocean, we simulated interannual variation in prey consumption and growth efficiency of steelhead using a bioenergetics model to evaluate the temperature-dependent growth response of steelhead to past climate events and to estimate growth potential of steelhead under future climate scenarios. Our results showed that annual ocean growth of steelhead is highly variable depending on prey quality, consumption rates, total consumption, and thermal experience. At optimal growing temperatures, steelhead can compensate for a low-energy diet by increasing consumption rates and consuming more prey, if available. Our findings suggest that steelhead have a narrow temperature window in which to achieve optimal growth, which is strongly influenced by climate-driven changes in ocean temperature.