The 19th Annual Cal-Ore Fish Enhancement Steelhead Derby got under way Friday, and although the first day of fishing was slow, the fishermen seem to be in high spirits, with the help of celebrity guests.

Retired Brigadier General Chuck Yeager and seven members of the Oakland Raiders attended the derby.

They elevate the status of the derby, said tournament director and guide Val Early. Its very enjoyable.

General Yeager is most famous for being the first to break the sound barrier in 1947. Yeager also served in World War II as a pilot. He shot down more than a dozen German aircraft, and was downed himself once.

I got a few small holes, Yeager said of his injuries in the crash.

Yeager is an avid fisherman and said the contribution by the guides is impressive.

The fishing guides donate their time free of charge to the derby.

Whats nice is the way all the guides donate their time and boats, Yeager said.

He added that there is a special reason he arrived for his fourth Cal-Ore derby.

Theyre really a nice bunch of people up here, Yeager said. I normally come to the first one, but I wanted to come back and meet some of the Oakland Raiders.

Yeager said he spends most of his time on fishing derbies up and down the West Coast for fish enhancement organizations and flying F-15s and other jets at Edwards Air Force Base. He also pilots other planes all over the world.

Yeager retired from the military as a test pilot and Air Force Commander in 1975, and during his career he recorded more than 10,000 flying hours in more than 330 different types of models and aircraft.

Also attending the derby for the 11th year was Oakland Raiders NFL Hall of Famer Jim Otto. This year Otto brought six other former Raiders, Erroll Mann, Dave Dalby, Jack Tatum, MacArthur Lane, Raymond Chester and Vance Mueller, as well as Raiderettes Charmaine Villanueva and Jennifer Puckett.

We enjoy doing things like this, especially because its a good cause, said Otto, who is a Cal-Ore Board Member.

People here have accepted us over the years. Its been real fun, Otto said.

The derby is the second of two held every year to benefit Cal-Ore Fish Enhancement, which donates the proceeds to fish enhancement programs, including hatchery and stream enhancement projects.

There are 27 teams signed up in the derby. Each is a four-angler team with two guides.

Each team splits up with half fishing the Chetco on the first day, and the other half fishing the Smith.

On the second day, the half-teams switch rivers and try their luck.

After the first day of fishing, the Timber Products Company team of anglers Pete Himmel, John Wasnieski, Tom Rhea and Mike Williams and guides Brett Barber and Ron Jones is currently in first with eight total fish. Ottos team is in second with five total fish.

The derby has a pit stop set up at Loeb Park where Chetco anglers can stop and get chili and other refreshments to take a break from fishing. These two yearly derbies are Cal-Ores Fish Enhancements only fundraisers.

Overall, there have been 45 steelhead derby caught in the derby, including 24 on the Chetco and 21 on the Smith. Each fish that has been caught so far was released.