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ice fishing for smelt (tips? etc?)


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#1 Stroover

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 09:27 PM

Hey lads!
What do you guys do for ice fishing for smelts? What kind of bait/rigs/tricks do you use?

I know once somebody gets the first smelt, you use the white gut of that smelt for bait, and you're good to go from then on. But what do you use for that first smelt, or for all your smelts for that matter?

Do any of you use "sabiki/sabaki rigs"?

Do you fish off the bottom?

Tight lines!
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#2 dand883

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Posted 19 December 2010 - 11:58 PM

We always just used the small ice fishing rods and a holder cut out of wood, or stick the handle in a milk crate or etc. We'd drop the line to the bottom then raise it up a few cranks and watch for the tip to move, then when it starts dipping a few times give the rod a jrk to try and set the hook.
For bait they seem to take just about anything sometimes, and go for nothing others. My dad always would get salt pork, cut it up into small pieces and keep it in cornmeal in the freezer, i'm not sure if the cornmeal did anything, but he did it every year.
I have also used gaspereau, smelt throats/bellies, i've seen people use chicken hearts, hotdogs, small shrimp pieces, seems just about anything small and smelly works.
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#3 Stroover

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 08:34 AM

Thanks Dand883. What about hook size? They say smaller is better. Is that the general rule here as well?
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#4 dand883

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Posted 20 December 2010 - 02:25 PM

I used about the same size hook i would if i was going for trout in a brook, small, but big enough to put some bait onto
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#5 ipop

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 06:03 PM

for hooks i go trout size or just a bit smaller, bait holder or plain j - hook. i also use small ball jigs with light weight jig heads (drop shots would be great), some times for the main bottom weight, sometimes for weighted hooks all along the rig. for the bottom i will either use a jig head or a couple of small bell sinkers. i like using a couple smaller ones, so i can take one off if the current is very light, or tie another on to the pile without changing the rest of the rig.

i have tried sabiki rigs but found they still need to be baited - you are competing with lots of baited hooks out there and might need the smell.
for bait i use a wide variety: cut gaspereaux; corn niblits; marshmellow pieces; trout power bait (white/grey, then pink, green, blue & red); steak; liver; rabbit; smelt; popcorn; pork fat; pork rind; worms; man made real bait worms; and i used to use shrimp until i became allergic.

"secret weapons"!: small jigs with a cup on the front, this gives you more motion when thrumming and moves better than any other in current. egg hooks when i'm lazy and i'm just going to wait until they hook themselves, the egg hooks are little circle/octopus hooks so no hook set required. a fish head or flying jig instead of the regular one for the bottom hook.
oh, and corn meal! besides the taste, the tiny fish and krell the smelt feed on go for corn meal, so using some every once in a while can at times turn them on or bring them over to your shack from where they were chowing down below the shack around the corner...lol! dan883, you dad clearly knows this one, by having it on his baits he's ready to fish with no additional mess.
oh again - thrumming! how could i forget! thrumming is how you are supposed to legaly move your jig. it's just a slow smooth lift of the line about .5 to 2" and then letting it brop back down or slowly lowering it - mostly used for larger fish, works well for smelts!

i normally have the weight just 6" or less from the bottom, i know people that use bigger hooks and let the eight sit on the bottom too, and at times you can catch them anywhere in the water colomn, so don't always just quick drop to the bottom, let it down slowly.

i see the site is still glitching, this is my second posting attempt.
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#6 ipop

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 05:00 PM

i've been out a few times so far this year. mostly slow fishing, mostly average smelts. 2 things happened yesterday that i should mention. first, although this technicly had nothing to do with the smelts, just something to be aware of in portables: my doors are zippered in my nice portable, and in this cold last night, i was frosting up the inside walls some. when i had to go out for a second...the zippers were frozen closed! all 4 of them! i had to use the heater to thaw them out, and acidentaly melted a looney size hole in my shack doing it - ohps! not a big deal, just some duck tape to fix, but it was a good reminder to keep the heater aimed at a zipper for when ya gotta go...out! lol

the other is much more smelt related, and has to do with a bait that hasn't been mentioned yet. besides catching an average smelt yesterday, i landed a 13" and lost what hit and felt like a much bigger one. the 13" was landed on power bait, but had just taken cut minnows and marshmellows. i noticed a tail sticking outof it's mouth, gave it a pull and found it had a 5" ell in it. this isn't the first time i have caught a smelt with an eel in it - last time the eel was even bigger. this is an odd thing, since smelts normally go for very small baits. just to try it, i put the eel on a circle hook and dropped it down. whithen 5 minutes, i had a big hit, had a good size fish on (probabaley not a smelt unless it was a foul hooked big one)...and it got off just below the ice, so, if you want really big smelts, try some small eels - personaly, i prefer small to average smelts - scrumpous!!

i did try a full minnow after that big mystery hit - nada!
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#7 delete

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 09:00 PM

I use the nice smelt rigs from wally world with the gold hooks and tiny glass beads, then I'll put a very small jigging spoon w/rattle chamber on the bottom of the rig. I constantly bounce the jig off the bottom or dabble it on the bottom, then raise it up for a few seconds and repeat. I believe stirring up the bottom a bit makes a big difference. I always bait all hooks and usually use shrimp as it is easily available. I replace my bait often and/or I get a good shrimp/fish flavored attractant (not smelly jelly or powerbaitstuff) and put a dab on after every fish. I have no proof, but I am positive that after a smelt has bitten and rejected a bait, the other smelt will often reject that bait. They must leave a scent on it.
I use 4lb test mono and a very ultralight light 4' to 4'-6" rod. The extra length and thin tip section improve the visibility of bites and increase your hooks ups, without pulling hooks out. It is hard to get that rod in a shack though.
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#8 ipop

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 04:42 PM

power bait works just fine. my most hits this year have been on marshmellows.

i have watched smelts on my underwater camera - we are getting about 8 to 1 unnoticed hits to noticed from what i watched. they will hit, suck on and reject a bait, then come right back and do it again or just sit there and stare at it untill it moves, so i'm not sure about the leaving a bad/rejected scent thing. baits do become stale, even water logged and clearly the fish don't like that, prefering fresh baits. so you may be getting the best results for some different reason.

using some noise and stirring the bottom a bit definatley helps, you could see them come over on camera. i was doing it the other night. i like the wallyworld smelt rigs too - nice small hooks! i haven't been using a rattleing lure on the bottom, but since you've mentioned it, obviously i should be! thanks.
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#9 Stroover

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Posted 26 January 2011 - 07:34 PM

You guys never use the white gut of the smelt for bait? It's killer! One white gut will bait 3 hooks when you cut it up in pieces. Smelt love it. It stays on your hook. It keeps the scent for a long time.
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#10 ipop

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Posted 26 January 2011 - 09:13 PM

i use it sometimes, depending on how they are hitting and if i'm cleaning the smelts at the shack or not. i like cut gaspereaux better, now if i can only find it in my deepfreeze....i know i kept at least one... <_<
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#11 gmac

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Posted 27 January 2011 - 08:29 AM

i use it sometimes, depending on how they are hitting and if i'm cleaning the smelts at the shack or not. i like cut gaspereaux better, now if i can only find it in my deepfreeze....i know i kept at least one... <_<

We caught anoher 200 or so yesterday,just using deer meat marinated in clam juice.You can use top round steak,stays on the hook real well and just get a bottle of clam juice from your local grocery store.Cube up the steak and marinate ,the longer the better.!15 or more shacks off Cameron now,probably still more to come
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#12 SMELTER

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Posted 27 January 2011 - 09:30 AM

I live in bathurst and here we like to use some squid... just cut it up in small pieces and bait your hooks with that, works wonders. i just pick a couple of them up at sobeys. they are inexpensive and stay on your hook a lot longer than shrimp or anything else that i used.

some people like to use some mackeral as well, those are the 2 favorites from around here.


tight lines
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#13 Bigbass

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Posted 27 January 2011 - 10:09 PM

We always used mackeral but drooled if we could get fresh gasperaux. But in reality, I think if they are hungry it don't really matter. Best tip I could give, and I believe, is to use some red on your line to attract them - some yarn, or a piece of red plastic, or red hooks etc.
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#14 Stroover

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Posted 31 January 2011 - 09:51 PM

Thanks for all the tips, guys.
We caught about 200 between Saturday and Sunday, and here's what worked and what didn't for us:

-corn niblets: caught maybe 5% of the smelts.
-roast beef: caught maybe 10%
-white gut: caught about 45% of the smelts the first 10 minutes on the hook, then had to be replaced with fresh.
-shrimp: caught about 40% of the smelts.

**notes**: 1)shrimp (we used cooked) works great, but after every couple of bites if you didn't catch one, you had to check your bait as it doesn't stay on well at all.

2) When the lads on here say "they take real subtle bites", they aren't kidding! I found I had to hold my rod with one finger (my forefinger ballancing the rod immediately in front of the reel) and concentrate on the slightest twitch. At the first sign of a twitch, I'd give a little jig and reel in regardless of if I felt a fish on or not. 9 out of 10 times I had a fish on and couldn't even feel it fight!

3) We used teardrop lead sinkers tied at the end of the line with 3 hooks tied at about a foot interval between each. We'd drop the sinker to the bottom, and then raise the rod just enough to straighten up the line (and then proceeded to ballance the rod off one finger). When the bait was fresh, you have a fish on pretty much instantly., or at least you're getting bites. The fish are 90% small, though, but the odd 8-10 incher.
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#15 pond jumper

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 01:10 PM

When i fish smelts in grand lake i find the way to get the big guys is an inch long live minnow with a 8 size neon octopus hook through his back like fishing pickerel, about a foot off bottom and just enough weight to sink him but not stop him from moving around. Throw a slip bobber on and watch it dissapear...or float up level off , dont know how well it would work on the smaller guys near salt water but in the lake they take them hard
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#16 ipop

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 03:39 PM

marshmellows was the hot bait the other night in millidgeville. they were being picky i guess, only one other fisher was catching any numbers while i was slamming them. a few guys stoped by my shack to see if i would trade baits, they were offering prawns for marshmellows - since i can't use the prawns/shrimp, i just gave them a handfull of marshmellos. the odd thing was the other guy that was catching was using cut shrimp, but it was his first time fishing ever, so i think we can call that beginers luck.

str00ver, i was about to switch to the white gut for bait, just to see, you know? since they were hitting white. well, anyway, i took out my deer gutting/skinning knife that's seen a lot of action in the last 2 years (i think people call me just to skin their deer, even though they are "just showing it off", lol, i just get the knife out and start to work when i see a hanging deer...lol! i can't help thinking how much work it can be later...!)
back to the smelts, i start to gut one...and my knife breaks!!! the handle died, broken into little pieces!! i was so disgusted i took a walk around the shacks for a bit, talked to the guys etc. then i did try it to gut a smelt - sort of worked but crude with just a blade to work with. ending up trying the white - it did okay, landed 2 on it before they stole it, but at the same time i also landed 2 on a marshemellow/power bait sandwich that's messy but works great.

i'm saving some smelt heads to use this summer for cut bait for stripers.

i can see squid working here, but it isn't very available in this area (i couldn't use it - alergies, same for prawns/shrimp/clam juice). i have 2 cans of mackeral i plan to try for smelt bait, but haven't gotten around to trying it yet. maybe this weekend....

i have been hearing a lot about them hitting deer steak (not just the clam juiced special baits). it seems like a waste of good deer meat to me, but to each his own.

i had a surf and turf special the other night - deer roast, baked salmon and fried smelts. it was a surprise but the smelts and deer tasted best, even though i did a good job on the salmon. it was a salmon tail i bought at sobeys, so maybe not the best piece of salmon...?!
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#17 ipop

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 03:41 PM

oh, i agree with the red bit, same for green and white some times. neon can work too but not as well as expected.
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#18 ipop

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Posted 04 February 2011 - 04:49 PM

another smelt tip is to occasionaly move the rod from side to side, not just thrum up and down. this produces small movements which just might be the trigger for the next bite.
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#19 pond jumper

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Posted 05 February 2011 - 10:21 PM

ipop canned mackerel should work very well, we use it in the main lake mixed with cooked pot barly and rice as chum for smelt, burbot and whitefish, it sinks very slow and stinks to high heaven, but every time we throw a scoop full down within a few minutes we start nailiong smelts even after periods of not getting a bite
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#20 Stroover

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 09:40 AM

A fella at the shack visiting yesterday said the same thing about mackerel. I'm gonna have to give it a try. He also said they used to tie a glowstick to their line, along with their hooks, and you'd be surprised as to how many smelts were attracted to the light. He claims they would hit like crazy.
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