For Smelt, Better Late Than Never

News & Tips: For Smelt, Better Late Than Never

BetterLateThanNever JAblogNot every year is created equal, weather-wise. Some springs are extremely warm, some come earlier in the year than others some have two feet of snow on April 23.

Years that have prolonged cold or excessive snow can be a challenge for sportsman because so much of what we do is dependent on the weather and water temperature. This year is a perfect example of what happens when Mother Nature doesn't comply with the norm, having smelting season start in the second week of May.

In most cases the beaches along Lake Superior get inundated with individuals chasing one of the smallest game fish — "smelt" — mid April. This year snow and ice was still covering Chequamegon Bay making the dedicated smelters wonder if the tiny fish were still going to be able to do their annual spawning runs.

Smelting is not inherently difficult when the fish actually decide to run. Smelters simply need to find a section for beach and wait. Smelt are very cautious with their spawning runs and wait until dark to run the beach and lay their eggs. As it gets dark smelters have to take exploratory pulls with the seine to see if the fish are actually running. It is a good idea to keep checking at regular intervals. Just because the smelt are not there one minute doesn't mean they won't be the next.

The process to catching smelt is relatively easy. All it takes is two people, waders and a seine net. Smelters walk out in the water then drag a 25- to 50-foot seine back towards the shore. Smelt will get into the net as they are swimming in and out from the beach and if you are lucky enough to be out when the fish start running it is not unusual to catch 3 to 5 gallons of smelt in a single pull. A thought to remember: Although it can be fun to seine smelt, cleaning them takes about twice as long as catching them. Take only what you think you can clean in a night and leave the rest to spawn and continue the journey.

Whenever you are trying to plan an outdoor activity like smelting that is weather dependent, things won't always work out as planned. Being flexible and open to trying even when you are not sure what is going to happen can lead to some of best times you will have in the outdoors.