One of the top-rated, west-coast salmon and steelhead fishing spots is along the Smith River. This river is home to the largest salmon caught on record (excluding Alaska’s 50-60 pounders) – a whopping 27-pound steelhead. The amazing experience of fishing in a pristine fishing location keeps gamefish anglers coming back to Smith River, which is home to one of the finest salmon/steelhead fisheries in the world.
Salmon fishing is at its best during fall months, following the year’s first big storms. The season continues from fall through December. Though the fishing is slow (experienced anglers may go many days waiting for a bite), some of the largest salmon on the west coast can be caught here using plugs and roe back-bounced through deep holes. Early in the season, anglers drift or troll plug-cut herring and anchovies; after the season progresses, natural salmon roe is a great choice.
Great numbers of steelhead are available on the Smith and tend to be of above-average size for the state of California. Steelhead, including many over 15 pounds, are best caught from December through April with their peak season in January-March. Steelheads love salmon roe, and anglers have fantastic luck with side-drifting roe to catch steelhead. If you happen to catch a steelhead with an adipose fin, it must be released because it is wild. The adipose fins on hatchery steelheads are clipped, so they are easy to identify.
Smith River’s deep area, called Sand Hole (on the lower Smith), is a prime fishing spot in the early Fall. Society Hole (downstream from the Highway 199 bridge) and the confluence of the South Fork and main steam are also choice fishing spots. Experts recommend fishing high when the river is high, and fishing low when the river is low.
Smith River has numerous access points for boat launching, wading, and shore fishing. There is some fly-fishing across current with spey rods.