Steelhead can still be caught as Smith drops
Stormy weather shouldn’t scare away Del Norte anglers after all. It may be the best time to haul in surfperch, said local fishing expert Wes Wesson.
Matt’s father, Brian DeMars, shows off a 17-pound steelhead that put up quite a fight for 20 minutes last month on the Smith. Photo courtesy of Jim Mitchell
When the wind is blowing more than 40 mph and the waves are breaking over the jetty, surfperch are biting in droves right in the harbor, Wesson said.
The water in Crescent City’s harbor does not circulate, so storms push the surfperch’s food right into the harbor, especially on the west side of the B Street Pier, Wesson said.
“It acts like a big fish net and the storm blows them all into the bay,” he said. “As soon as the storm's gone, they’re gone. If it isn’t blowing 20-plus, they’re going to go.”
Until the next big storm, surfperch can also be caught on most Del Norte beaches, especially near Point St. George, Wesson said.
The best time to catch them is during an incoming tide from about two hours before high tide until high tide.
Use 6- to 10-pound test monofilament line, No. 6 size hook, and uncooked, unpeeled shrimp, Wesson said.
Only cast out into the surf about 30 to 40 feet or you’ll cast right over them, Wesson said, and if you don’t get any bites after a few minutes, change locations until you find them.
“You’ve got to keep moving along to find the hole where they are,” Wesson said. “If there’s no pigeons in the park you have to go to the other bench.”
Ten of each surfperch species are allowed for take per day. Redtail surfperch must be at least 10.5 inches to take.
The Smith River should drop into shape for drift boating by this weekend after peaking at 27 feet on the Jed Smith gauge mid-morning Friday.
The Wednesday afternoon river forecast showed the Smith falling below 11 feet on the Jed river gauge in the early morning hours of Saturday.
“Every time it goes into a drop it’s been good — all year,” said Jim Mitchell of Gotcha Hooked Fish Trips. “We’ve been averaging six to seven fish.”
Remember to adjust your weight size as the river drops.
“I try to get away with as light of weight as I can,” he said. “Get the bait to go the same speed as the current so it all looks natural.”
Mitchell took his new son-in-law, Matt DeMars, of Crescent City, fishing earlier in March, and DeMars hooked up with an estimated 14-pound fresh, native steelhead using a plug within the first five minutes — his first time steelhead fishing
DeMars’ father, Brian, of Fresno, also went for his first steelie trip, and caught an estimated 17-pound native steelhead on his first cast with bait just below the covered bridge.
“That was a phenomenal fight,” Mitchell said, adding that it took 20 minutes to land the fish. “He was a fighter. I was wondering whether we were going to land that sucker.”
Mitchell uses most of the same steelhead gear and colors mentioned in previous Reel Deals, but he emphasized the importance of using scent. He prefers shrimp scent.
“The steelheads’ noses are really keen, so smell is really important,” he said. “Make sure your hands are clean of human smells. I make my clients throw some scent on their hands too.”
Mitchell occasionally uses anise oil to cover human scent too.
The DIDSON sonar fish counter finished its season when the sonars were pulled before last week’s big storm.
From March 25 to 29, there were 65 adult fish counted swimming upstream and 52 adults downstream. That brings the season grand total to 32,320 adult fish moving upstream.
Reach Jim Mitchell of Gotcha Hooked Fish Trips at 707-951-5036 or visit gotchahookedfishtrip.webs.com.