Game Fishing > Bottom Saltwater Fish types > Smelt


SmeltThere are about a dozen species of this family which inhabit the cold and temperate Northern seas, but they are most plentiful along the coast of New England and the Middle States. The Eastern smelt grows occasionally to the length of a foot, but the average is about seven inches. They appear to associate in vast schools, somewhat according to size, each school being the spawn of a single fish.

The smelt remains about the coast, in the bays, throughout the year, save when it ascends fresh­water streams to breed. As soon as the ice is out, smelts appear in the brooks, at first in small numbers, and the run continues till the middle of May. They ascend usually at night or on dark days. They will not bite during the spawning season. From the latter part of August to late December smelts will bite with avidity, and the best time is at flood tide, though some will bite at ebb tide, and many anglers claim that more and larger fish are caught at night, especially on dark nights.

The best baits are these, in the order named: shrimps, blood worms, common garden worms, and small minnows. Their favorite bait is shrimp, which should be placed on the hook, tail first, the point of the hook coming out at the head. Minnows should be hooked through the lips, from underneath, with the hook coming out at the top of the nose. The rod should be no longer than eight feet; no reel is required, the line being tied at the tip, and the fish lifted right into, the boat. Use a six-foot gut leader of medium thickness and attach to it four hooks, so that the end one will hang one foot from the bottom, the other three hooks being about one foot apart.

The hooks should be small and the points sharp. A sinker tied to the end should be heavy enough to hold on the bottom, what­ever tide runs, so that the hooks will float well away from the line. At times they bite with such rapidity that they can be pulled into the boat as fast as the bait is put on. They are a swift-moving fish, and when once located a good catch is always the result.

If smelts are cooked within a short time after being caught they are most delicious eating; the larger fish have an oily taste, not so agreeable as the small fish.