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.