In early December 2017, the Fish and Game Commission added thirty-six miles of the
South Fork Smith watershed perennial stream habitat to the Wild Trout Waters program, officially recognizing the unique quality of the fishery. The designation included the South Fork Smith River, from the confluence with Goose Creek upstream to Blackhawk Creek, including the tributaries of Goose Creek and Hurdygurdy Creek. The South Fork Smith and its tributaries contain self-sustaining populations of both Coastal Cutthroat Trout and Coastal Rainbow Trout.

In addition, the South Fork Smith River and its tributaries were designated as Heritage Trout Waters, which further recognizes the beauty, diversity, historical significance, and special values of California’s native trout. Heritage Trout waters support fish populations that best exemplify indigenous strains of native trout within their historic drainages, and able to provide anglers with the opportunity to catch native trout consistent with the conservation of the native trout present.

This new designation expands upon the 2016 designation in the South Fork Smith River drainage, which included the South Fork Smith River, from the confluence with Blackhawk Creek upstream to Island Lake Trail Crossing, and the following tributaries: Buck Creek, Quartz Creek, Eight Mile Creek, Williams Creek, Harrington Creek and Prescott Fork.

The Upper South Fork of the Smith River has been recognized for its solitude, tremendous beauty and the unparalleled opportunity it provides to catch a Coastal Cutthroat Trout.

The Heritage and Wild Trout Waters designation recognizes the beauty, diversity, historical significance and special values of native trout across California. Statewide, there are now twelve designated streams which include the Clavey River, a tributary of the Tuolumne River, the Golden Trout Creek, including tributaries, from its confluence with the Kern River upstream to the headwaters, and the Upper Kern River, above the Forks of the Kern. All of these rivers are wild and alive with unique native fish, all an important part of our California history.

The South Fork Smith is the newest addition to this group of esteemed group of rivers.

The Heritage Trout designation requires a candidate for designation be home to a native trout within their historic range. For the Smith, that fish is the Coastal Cutthroat Trout, Oncorhynchus clarki clarki. The Smith River has the largest and most diverse population of these trout in California.

The Upper South Fork of the Smith River deserves this recognition for its solitude, tremendous beauty and the unparalleled opportunity it provides to see or catch one of California’s most prized trout – the Coastal Cutthroat Trout.

Most of the proposed area considered for designation is located inside the Siskiyou Wilderness, created in 1984. The Wilderness Area spans three national forests for a total of 182,802 acres. It includes one the richest temperate coniferous forests in the world and the record for annual rainfall (240”) was recorded nearby in the watershed. The amazing biodiversity here is due in part to the fact that the region escaped extensive glaciation during the last ice age.






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Coastal Cutthroat Trout

Coastal cutthroat trout are anadromous trout found in the coastal watersheds of northern California, which is the southern end of their range. In addition to the Smith River, they can be found in several Humboldt Bay tributaries like Little River and Redwood Creek, as well as a number of coastal lagoons like Lake Earl, Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon.

Coastal cutthroat trout have a highly variable life history ranging from fully anadromous to resident. They are the most freshwater – dependent of the anadromous salmonids, migrating to the ocean for only a few months in the summer. The fish can be identified by their abundant black spotting and distinctive red slash along the jaw. In California, these fish reach about 16 to 22 inches.