Unrelenting rain in the last few days has eliminated the fishing on most North Coast rivers, but when the Smith River’s low and calm enough, there are still plenty of steelhead.
First place winners in the 2012 Chopper Derby include, from left, guide Gary Klein, Dennis Freeman, Denny Vopat, Bob Pestoni, Ron McGowan and guide Kevin Brock. Submitted
From March 9 to March 20, there were 554 adult fish moving upstream and 180 downstream fish, said Zack Larson of the DIDSON‚Äąsonar fish counter at Fred Haight boat launch on the Smith.
That brings the Smith River season net total (Oct. 1 to March 20) of upstream adult fish to 32,059.
“During the last few weeks we’ve observed an increase in numbers of fish migrating downstream, fish which are very likely to be steelhead kelts,” Larson said.
Kelts are fish that have already spawned, but with the total amount of fish coming into the system rather than out, steelhead fishing should continue well into April.
The DIDSON study is funded by the DFG Fisheries Restoration Grants Program, Steelhead Fishing Report and Restoration Card, and Smith River Alliance.
Plenty of fish were caught at the 2012 Chopper Derby last month, which took place on the Smith and Chetco Rivers.
Fishing guides Gary Klein and Kevin Brock led their teams to victory with seven steelhead trout caught and released (all fish are released in the derbies). The steelhead measured a total of 208 inches.
The Chopper and Hank “Raider” derby are the primary fundraisers for the Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery, which is the only privately run fish hatchery in the state of California and produces the only steelhead you can keep on the Smith, since currently wild steelhead must be released.