The Smith river is one of California’s go to hot spots for trophy class king salmon and steelhead.
The Smith holds the California state record for a 27-lb. steelhead caught back in 1976 and produces many of the biggest salmon in California second only to the Sacramento river. Reports of fish in the 50- to 60-pound range still hold true even today.
The largest king salmon caught in the Smith River was an 86-lb. beast and was the state record until an 88-lb. king was caught on the Sacramento river and remains the California state record to date.
California anglers and Smith River Fishing Guides alike begin targeting salmon on the lower Smith river starting in September focusing on the big kings near the mouth, next to Ship Ashore. In October, salmon begin stacking up in the Sand Hole, known as one of the most productive holes in the entire lower river.
To fish the sand hole requires a permit from the private ranch landowner that has boat launching access. Here, anglers troll bait fish for the stacking chinook waiting for fall rains before they move upriver. The AM bite at the Sand Hole is one of the most
exciting times of the season, as these big fish strike and immediately take off peeling line from reels after being hooked.
When the fall rains come, fishing opens above the mouth of Rowdy Creek. Here Chinook salmon are caught on plugs and roe back-bounced through the deeper holes where the fish are holding. Salmon peaks in November and goes well into December, when steelhead fishing starts to become prime time.
Steelhead fishing on the Smith run December through April with big fish being caught throughout the season. In the last few years, December has been good with January being peak month. Passed years February was the peak of the Steelhead season.