Maine Saltwater Fishing Report: Smelt Season a Maine Tradition!!!

2009-01-02 11:05:41
Kennebec River, Maine - Saltwater Fishing Report
Kennebec River, Randolph
George Harris

A far cry from our beloved midcoast Maine Striper flats...However...Every December, whole villages of smelt shanties spring up almost official, if unnecessary, signal of winter's arrival. Smelt fishing is a deep and dependable tradition on the state's coast. As soon as the ice is thick enough, smelters drag their customized shanties onto the tidal rivers and sit inside them, stoking wood stoves and tending to baited lines that hang through holes in the ice.

"Ocean-going smelt enter our tidal waters as early as November and December. Anglers get serious about smelting in January and can fish for them into March. Fishing can be done from a pop-up ice shelter. This means taking an ice auger to get through the ice, as well as a stove to keep the chill off, bait, bucket, rods, hooks and other tackle. Everything has to be hauled out onto the ice because the ice is too unstable to drive a vehicle. The majority of smelt anglers like to rent a shack from a commercial smelt shack operation where most of the items are taken care of by the proprietors. Small mom-and-pop businesses emerge each year with as many as 50 smelt shacks for rent on the ice of tidal rivers. The cost to rent these shacks varies, with the range of price somewhere between $10 and $15 per person. Bait, hooks, lines, and sinkers are provided...we use our own specialzed jig rods. There is a wood stove in the shack to keep the occupants warm.

Cooking Smelt:

This species' meat is white, delicate and sweet flavored. Preparation for cooking often involves simply removing the head and entrails. Frying is an easy method for preparing smelt. Mix one cup of flour, corn meal or breadcrumbs and one teaspoon of your favorite seasoning in a plastic bag. Shake cleaned smelt in this mixture so that they are lightly dusted. Fry the fish in 1/8 inch of vegetable or olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Fry for about 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the other. Drain the fish on paper towels and eat while still warm. Fried smelt are finger food, to be enjoyed plain or dipped in tartar or seafood sauces.

Throughout this season we'll be organizing daytime & evening smelting trips...A great weekend getaway for those of you in southern New England or for those of you looking to spend some quality time with the kids in an outdoor environment...Please contact us if you'd like to join one of our groups.

Maine Striper Fishing Guide

Capt. George Harris


Fish Species: Smelt
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George Harris

About The Author: Captain George Harris

Company: Super Fly Charters

Area Reporting: Mid Coast Maine

Bio: Super Fly Charters provides friendly professional guided fishing trips for Striped Bass, Bluefish & "Football" Bluefin Tuna. We offer full & half day trips with all tackle provided

Click Here For Past Fishing Reports by Captain George Harris