Northern CA Freshwater

Smith River: Rains improve Smith River steelhead action

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jan 16, 2020

SMITH RIVER — As other nearby rivers blew out last week with heavy rain on the North Coast, steelhead fishing picked up on the Smith River, with guides reporting a fish or better per rod between storms.

Shore-based plunkers also have been catching steelhead on the lower Smith. More rain this week is expected to keep the Smith high but fishable. "The water looks great," said guide Mick Thomas of Lunker Fish Trips. "It is high but it is green. The color looks really good."

WILD IRONHEAD — Tom Edminston of Fairbanks, Alaska, holds a wild steelhead he caught and released Jan. 10 while fishing the Smith River with guide Andy Martin of Wild Rivers Fishing. He was drifting roe cured with Pautzke’s BorXOFire.

Steelhead have spread throughout the river, but guides have been hitting schools of fish below the Forks and again near the Highway 199 bridge just downstream of Hiouchi. Thomas said some guides are getting two fish a rod, while most are getting at least a fish per rod when the river is dropping. When it is on the rise, fishing has been much slower.

"It was good on Thursday but on Friday and Saturday it was coming up," said guide Phil Desautels of Phil's Smiling Salmon Guide Service. "It is going to be high this week but fishable. There are some plunkers catching fish. The boats that go plunking are catching a few fish as well."

Desautels said he hopes the increased flows on the Smith will draw in more steelhead from the ocean. A huge swell kept the mouth of the Smith extremely rough over the weekend. Flows at Dr. Fine Bridge have been between 16 and 18 feet the past week. More of the same is expected this week.

Side-drifting roe and Corkies has been productive for drift boaters when the river is dropping. When it is rising, many are anchoring on the lower river and running Spin-N-Glos with clusters of roe.

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