The Smith River, in Del Norte county, is the northern most of California's major rivers. The mouth being about 5 miles from the Oregon border, 10 miles north of Crescent City. It is the largest free-flowing river in the state, producing the largest Steelhead and Chinook Salmon. The state record steelhead, 27lbs 4oz and the states second largest Chinook Salmon, 86lb, were both pulled out of the Smith. Steelhead of 20 lbs are caught on a regular basis and the chinook average 20-36 lbs.
The Smith is known as the quickest clearing stream of the coastal rivers. After major storms, the river is fishable in a couple of days, where as some of the other rivers can take up to 2 weeks. The reason for this is the free-flow nature of the river which has allowed it to carve its bed down to bedrock.
Along with steelhead and chinook, the Smith also has runs of silver salmon, coho, and sea-run cutthroat trout. The chinook runs start in late August, going through late December, with its peak in November. Steelhead start their runs in early December and go through March, with their peak in January.
The Smith River flows through some of the most beautiful scenery in California. From Six
Rivers National Forest through Jedediah State Park, it is hard to decide which is better the scenery or the fishing. Be sure to visit the Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery , if you pass through the town of Smith River near the mouth. The hatchery offers tours dialy and it's a great opportunity to see the efforts being put into keeping our sport alive.