Smelt are great tasting little fish enjoyed by game fish as well as humans. There are many species of smelt found both in the Atlantic and the Pacific. They like the cooler waters of the north.
The Atlantic smelt are the biggest of the smelt species growing to 18 inches and about 1.5 lbs. They taste good pickled, smoked, cured, or fried and even raw. Fishing for smelt can be a challenge because they eat small organisms like plankton, small crustaceans, and fish larva.
If you want to catch smelt and use them as bait for bass fishing the best method is using a net. Because smelt travel in schools they are easy to just scoop up with a long handle net. But if you aren’t lucky enough to find a school close to the top of the water, here is another way. On a fishing line, tie three or four large swim baits about four inches apart. Go out a couple hundred yards from the shore and then with your back to the shore cast out the swim bait out over a large net. Then reel in the swim baits several times. The smelt will think that fish are going into shore to spawn and will follow the swim baits. When they get over the net, lift it up and you’ll have your smelt.
If you are trying to catch bigger smelt to eat use smaller smelt swim baits and fish eggs. This bait will draw them to either be caught on a hook or on a net. It is best to check local fishing regulations to see what the requirements are for using nets.
If you find yourself doing more boating than fishing remember you can always play fishing games. If the fishing is really slow there is nothing like playing free fishing games to liven things up while watching the Bassmaster classic.