Posted by: Andy Whitcomb
January 1, 2013

Andy Whitcomb

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.


Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad living in Pennsylvania. Visit him at

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