Biggest catch

Phil Desautels shows off the biggest catch of the Rowdy Creek Steelhead Derby at 36 inches. Courtesy photo.

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The Rowdy Creek Steelhead Fishing Derby returned for its 38th year Feb. 21-22, attracting 19 teams to raise money for the Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery in Smith River.

Longtime volunteer Susie Westbrook said this year’s event brought in close to $50,000 through team entry fees, an auction, raffle and Calcutta. Westbrook said the derby is the hatchery’s biggest fundraiser of the year in addition to the grants it receives to fill in the operational gaps.

She said several teams that wanted to participate had to be turned away due to a declining number of available guides.

“A lot of guides have just retired or passed away,” Westbrook said. “We used to have four derbies of 20 teams each. So, we really appreciate very much our guides. The fact they donate their time is very big.”

The teams over the two-day event switch between fishing the Smith and Chetco rivers. The steelhead are all catch-and-release. But each is measured and the individuals and teams who have the most total inches win prizes.

This year’s prizes went to:

— First Place: C. Mondavi and Family, nine fish, 241 inches

— Second Place: J.B. Construction, seven fish, 192 inches

— Third place tie between Woodmore Gable and Little Ray’s Tackle

The top rod award went to Kimberlee Swift for catching the most fish at four.

And the biggest catch of the derby was a 36-inch monster hatchery-grown steelhead caught by Phil Desautels.

For more about the derby and the Rowdy Creek Hatchery, go to their Facebook page at https://bit.ly/3cdpQuz.

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