He Who Smelt It

There is an old saying that “sometimes less is more.” However with smelt, this is not one of those times. When smelt fishing, “more is more.”

Smelt are a relatively weak fish, which might reach an immense six inches or so. Even catching three at a time, I have had aquatic vegetation that fought harder. Still, this is strangely fun and I cannot wait to take the kids smelt fishing.

I have used augers to drill holes to plant trees. When the ice is at least 4 inches thick at Conneaut Harbor, Ohio on Lake Erie, anglers use augers to bore holes to reach water in a more liquid state.

Additional smelt fishing equipment includes ice-fishing rods that seem more like toys, and two buckets; the first, to flip upside down and have a seat. Tiny hooks, up to three in tandem, are tipped with wax worms under a micro bobber.

With a bite, the bobber does not so much as go under as perhaps just roll over a bit. And you do not jerk to set the hook. Smelt have such small mouths that they may not be hooked but are just hanging on. Lift quickly; shake off the smelt into bucket number 2, laugh, and repeat. If they are really biting, this can be done with a rod in each hand.

Caught on hook and line, there is no limit for smelt in Lake Erie in the Pennsylvania regulations. Thus, after a couple of hours, you could have a sizeable bucket of smelt on your hands. Why? Turns out these little fish are quite tasty.

To clean, use a small pair of scissors. Remove head, make a slit down the belly, remove insides and wash thoroughly. The rest, when “butterflied” and fried lightly is a delicacy. Despite the unfortunate name.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to www.takemefishing.org since 2011.