Smith, Chetco anglers plan annual derbies

Supporters of Northern California's Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery are planning their 31st annual season of fishing derbies on the Smith and Chetco rivers to raise money to operate California's only non-government hatchery, as well as for other fishery-improvement projects in the region.

The Chopper Derby runs Feb. 21-23, and the Hank "Raider" Derby will run March 8-10. Both are Friday-through-Sunday events in which participants fish California's Smith River one day and Southern Oregon's Chetco River the next.

The derbies are named for Chopper and Hank Westbrook, who launched the inaugural Cal/Ore Derby to raise money for fish projects on both sides of the Oregon/California state line.

The hatchery is operated by a nonprofit corporation created in 1968 by the Kiwanis Club of Smith River.

The effort was launched after floods in 1955 and 1964 decimated the Smith River's spawning habitat, triggering a decline in salmon and steelhead returns.

The state of California passed legislation in 1970 to grant Rowdy Creek Hatchery the authority to spawn, rear and release salmon and steelhead in the Smith River.

The facility is at the confluence of Dominie and Rowdy creeks, tributaries to the lower Smith River.

In the derbies, four-angler teams are matched with two guides. On Friday, two members of the team and one guide fish the Smith, and the other two men and the other guide fish the Chetco. On Saturday, the teams switch rivers. Cost per team is $3,000.

For more information and entry forms, check out the group's website at or call 707-954-2260.

The Grants Pass-based Middle Rogue Steelheaders will hold two seminars Saturday, Feb. 2, in Medford on how to tie and fish yarn balls for steelhead.

Yarn balls are tight little clumps of yarn tied to hooks in a way that imitates tiny clusters of roe. They are excellent alternatives to fishing bait because the yarn doesn't fall off your hook or get munched away by juvenile salmon and steelhead.

The free seminars are planned for 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday at Sportsman's Warehouse, 1710 Delta Waters Road, Medford.

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