Smith River — 1152 inches, 42 fish

Chetco River — 2212 inches, 80 fish

TOTAL — 3364 inches, 122 fish


First place — 390 inches, 14 fish

Boat 1: Guide Joe Mello, Jaytuk Steinruck, Kurk Miller

Boat 2: Guide Kim Hagen, Troy Travis, Tyler Travis

Second place — 296 inches, 11 fish

Boat 1: Guide Brice Dusi, Jack Biondini, Craig McRae

Boat 2: Guide Zack Larson, Garry Penning, Wes White

Third place — 292 inches, 11 fish

Boat 1: Guide Mike Stratman, John Flinn, Mike Stratman

Boat 2: Guide Rawland Swift, Walt Geist, Frank Overton


Angler Wes White, 36.5 inches with guide Zack Larson on the Chetco River


John Flinn caught six fish with guide Mike Stratman

The Rowdy Creek Steelhead Derby was back out on the Smith and Chetco rivers this weeked for the 35th year and the rivers, though running a little on the high side, rounded into shape nicely on Friday for the start of the derby.

“The rivers were a little high, but it was great conditions,” said fishing guide Jim Mello, of Reel Mello Fishing. “The water color was perfect. It was really good fishing. I think every single guide out there was able to show their clients a good time.”

This year’s derby had 18 teams consisting of two boats apiece and the anglers combined to haul in 122 total steelhead, all caught and released, measuring 3,364 total inches.

“I think part of the reason the derby had such good numbers was because the pressure hasn’t been that high in a while,” Mello said. “It was the first fishable day in about a week, so everything just kind of fell into place for the derby.”

Anglers were treated to a little bit of all the winter weather that the Wild Rivers Coast has to offer this year.

“The weather on Friday was crazy,” said derby director Kimberlee Swift. “On the Chetco they had snow, hail, rain and freezing temperatures. Then on Saturday it was beautiful, sunny, T-shirt weather.”

The Chetco River produced about twice as many steelhead as the Smith River did this year with 80 fish caught in Oregon.

Anglers said they saw more steelhead with sea lice on the Smith River, however.

“There were more fresh fish on the Smith River, but a lot more fish and downrunners on the Chetco,” said fishing guide Kim Hagen of Hagen Fishing Guide Service.

Mello and Hagen were the guides for this year’s winning team. Mello took Jaytuck Steinruck and Kurt Miller down the Chetco on Friday and the Smith on Saturday. Hagen made the opposite runs with Troy and Tyler Travis. Those two boats dominated the competition, catching 14 steelhead measuring 390 total inches, nearly 100 inches more than second place.

Hagen, a former resident of Gasquet that now lives in Idaho, has been fishing in the steelehead derby for 23 years and this was his fourth first-place finish.

Although Hagen has had a lot of success in the derby, he said in order to win the event one must have luck on their side.

“I think you just have to be the lucky one that casts out and puts it in front of them,” Hagen said. “There are a bunch of good guuides out there.”

Mello agreed.

Although Mello, a Brookings-Harbor High School alumni, currently runs his fishing guide service out of Roseburg, Oregon, he said many of the people that taught him to fish in the first place were at the derby this weekend.

“I grew up on the Chetco and there were three guides in the derby that a grew up in the front of their boat,” Mello said. “I was really honored to be able to be out there with them and I felt lucky that I was able to have a good day.”

The biggest fish of the derby was caught by Wes White with fishing guide Zack Larson. White reeled in a 36.5 inch steelhead out of the Chetco River helping his team to a second place finish.

John Flinn was perhaps the busiest fishermen throughout the two-day derby. He caught a total of six steelhead with fishing guide Mike Stratman.

Reach Michael Zogg at .