Artifacts: World Record Steelhead

Clay Carter and His World Record Steelhead
Steelhead are one of the most prized sport fish of the Northwest. They are born in the river and travel to the ocean as smolts (commonly mistaken for small trout). They usually stay in the ocean from 2-4 years. The longer they stay at sea the bigger they are when they return. Steelhead don’t die after spawning like salmon. They may succumb to the rigors of the journey but many return to spawn again. The largest fish grow to over thirty pounds -steelhead of this size are record class. A twenty pound fish is a trophy and usually measures over 40 inches in length.

Clay Carter retired to Ketchum in the 70′s to live the sporting life. Steelhead fishing led him to the Kispiox River, in the Skeena drainage of British Columbia, Canada.  This drainage has produce all the world record steelhead catches, and is the home of the great race of this fish. On October 1st, 1985, Clay beached an enormous steelhead at lower Patch on the Kispiox. 

Careful measurements were made and many pictures were taken, and it was determined that the buck steelhead weighed thirty-seven pounds. Carter released the fish and gave up any hope of having his catch qualify  as an official record, but he gained little fame  for his classy gesture. Had he killed the steelhead for the world record it was, the record would not have been a popular one. These are the fish that genetically energize their race, and their preservation is seen as a sacred trust among fly fisherman.

A fiberglass replica of Clay’s prize catch is on display just inside the Pioneer dining room. A photo of the memorable moment hangs just outside the grill. Clay’s close friends and the Pioneer Saloon are proud to keep alive the memory of this gracious sportsman.


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