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Will there ever be a smelt run again

  • yes

    Votes: 47 60.3%
  • no

    Votes: 31 39.7%


4471 Views 40 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  stinger63
Will there ever be a smelt run. Manistee has seen nothing for years. I would like to know some info.
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Well there still are smelt....especially in Lake superior and Huron....but it is true that the runs are nothing compared to the days of old. Based on all the info i've read about loss of desporia, loss of spawning habitat, and other factors I would have to say that there will be no miraculous rebound for Great Lakes smelt. But who knows, baitfish are cyclical like anything else. Right now Lake Michigan is up on Alewives while Lake Huron is way down. The low alewive pop. on lake huron has allowed a bumber crop of young perch to explode, maybe the same could happen with smelt. So the truth is my opinion is NO but i'm not sure anyone can answer that question for sure.
The Huge smelt runs of the past occured after the Sea Lampray invaded the great lakes and nearly wiped out the Native Lake trout population. The declines in Smelt runs can be coorelated to the introduction and success of the controls on the Sea lampray population.
Till this day my father tells me how unbelievable the smelt runs were back in the day (point pelee) you could feel them hit your legs when wading and it was no suprise to come home with a couple of 35 gal garbage cans full of those tasty little critters.
No I think the Smelt are done. There is somthing going on, I dont know what it is, but we need to get to the bottom and fix it.
we used to go to pointe pelee and get a 50 gallon trash can full in about 3-4 dips. I was always told the decline of the smelt what due to the extensive stocking of larger game fish ie walleye in erie and trout and salmon in the other great lakes. I tend to believe this since there is always a push for more of the larger gamefish and less of a worry about the small tasty ones.

But that is just my .02

I just bought 4 lbs. of smelt at Farmer Jacks that was mismarked as catfish nuggets. got them for .50 a lbs. and these were by far the largest smelt I seen at a grocery store. I measured a couple and they went 9 in. without the head. They will be going on the frying pan for this Fri.:) :)
Smelt are still out there! Take a trip with one of the commercial fishermen who run the pond nets with long leads running up to the shoreline. They have no problem filling their wooden crates with about two dips if the handles on the nets are strong enough.
Perhaps the smelt have evolved into beach or reef spawners instead of running the river gauntlet. Early salmon - May/June are also usually stuffed with smelt.
I hear a lot of talk about "the days of old" when you could bring home a couple of 35 gallon garbage cans full or fill a 50 gallon trash can in 3 or 4 dips as mentioned earlier in this thread.
That makes one wonder if this type of activity has helped (and I believe it has) and to what extent (I am unsure) to deplete the number of smelt to what it is today. As like most every other thing we chase, if taken to the extent where we hardly see them we look for excuses as to what happened. I think an example that could be looked at in the same light is what happened to the Ring Neck Pheasant.

Just a little food for thought.
Are smelt native or were they introduced? That could explain alot.
I didn't want to make it sound like it was just 1 or 2 guys. We used to go up there with 4 of my brothers along with 8 uncles and their kids also. We used to make a night of it for the whole family. But I'm sure that with everyone taking that many smelt it didn't help out the situation.

Maybe the idea of catch and release for smelt could catch on:D :D
Smelt are not native....they were introduced in the 1910s. There numbers rapidly expanded and then started to taper off in the early 80's. Sea Lampreys reached there highest peaks in the 50s and now are only about 10% of their highest numbers. If predation from salmon and trout were the main component regulating smelt populations we could of expected a population spike during the the 80s when BKD struck but that didn't really seem to happen. However there does seem to be a correlation with Sea Lampreys and smelt. Sea Lampreys tend to be harder on Lake Trout then other speicies and Lake Trout tend to target smelt more then Salmon who seem to prefer Alewives. So maybe we If there were less Trout and less Gamefish in general we would see more smelt. But I've never had a downrigger pop and a the drag go screaming because a 7 inch smelt ate the bait so I think I can live without the smelt runs of old :rolleyes:
i read somewhere that studies have shown that the smelt are still there, but they have evolved somewhat to spawn offshore on reefs and whatnot instead of coming in real close like they used to.

not too sure how true it is, i just remember reading it. Another thing to consider is things like this have a tendency to be cyclic in the short term. Case in point: zebra mussels.... they had a population boom followed by a crash, and now it is reaching an equilibrium. Possibly this is the same as what is going on with the smelt.

I agree that the return of the lake trout is also putting a dent in the population, but i don't think it would be that large of an effect.

I was over at Wheatley Ont. and the guy at the Last Chance Tackle said that the Smelt are still there but since the Lake cleaned up they don't come into the shallow water to span anymore.Bought some while I was there and they were great.
the smelt went to the same place the big bucks went!
no regulations inforced!

My ears ring with the sound of your EM! It was many years, yet not that long ago, when friends and I measured our worth and skill as smelt dippers by the garbage can full--and there were plenty of those. We always tried to make use of them, but I know that some ended up as nitrogen enrichment for vegetable gardens. We saw no end to the runs that blackened streams. (Tip of the Mitt)

I'm told such runs still occur, though very sporadically and being there at the right time (and having access) is not as common as it was 20 years ago. I, too, have heard the reef spawning hypothesis. It seems logical that if you fish down a stream spawing population that thier offspring would be depleted and that, combined with fluctuations in water levels, temperatures, nutrient additions, sedimentation, etc., can synergistically make life very difficult on a little fish.

Of course, I'm still holding firm to my belief that when I bit the head off the first smelt I caught at the Carp River back in 1992 (which, sadly, I think was the last one I caught!), I angered the smelt gods and have been paying a heavy price for the sin! I need to go to Higgins Lake and pay homage!

BTW, how to those "store-bought" smelt taste? Can't believe they're as good as fresh...I remember eating them at the Fort Restaurant in Mackinaw City...needed to debone them they were so large...

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There are a lot of smelt here in the eastern side of the UP . I have caught herring this winter that were full of smelt and the coho were full also. Late in the evening with a lite, the smelt came up to the top about 2 feet under the ice. Early in the morning they were there to so that is when the herring fed on them. I think they are spawning on the sand bars in the area because of all the lights that are at the river mouths now. They like the dark.
I believe that smelt are the victum of large plantings of Salmon. Steelhead and Brown trout along with the rebound in lake trout populations. There are still a lot of smelt but they have started to adapt to clean water and heavy preditory actions to survive. they also run in cycles like most bait fish. look at lake Huron and Kings this past year. They were no were to be found for most of the year, and there was less bait fish compared to most years.

I rememder the days when you could fill a garbage can in two or three dips of the net but I have never met anyone who took them in hugh numbers most guys wanted enough for a few meals. I'm sure that ther were the few "Pigs" who just had to fill a 35 gallon can or a drum so they could brag about it. Whose guys are few and far between because most of us would run them off or shame them out of it. There was a mention of the smelt going the way of the pheasant. This is a reference to over hunting. The pheasants home has been taken away by farming practices, the elimanation of fence rows and clear plowing of fall fields. nothng can live with out cover and food. No game animal or fish has been decimated by sportsman using legal hunting or fishing practices.
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The smelt species is doomed thanks to the protection given to the cormorants that feast on them.....take a look at the floating carpet of comorants in front of the warm water discharge on the St Clair River on the Canadian side downstream from Sarnia in the coming weeks. If we don't get approval to start using cormorants as targets for sport shooting soon its going to be a catastrophe. Ask the fishermen in Florida around Punta Gorda....they've seen the winter populations of cormorants down there quadruple in the past few years. Theres no room on the electrical wires for the native birds cause the cormorants have taken everything over by their sheer numbers. If you can get a smelt now mount it.....they are the next endangered species and are not getting any protection, and yes, their spawning habitat has been severly damaged by the low water levels that have blocked them from getting up their spring streams and drains in southern Lake Huron. :mad:
There are still some smelt around au gre and oscoda. The numbers are much smaller. 15 years ago they were very abundant, hitting your leggs, 20 to 40 a dip. I dont know about a 50 gallon drum but I know a 5 gallon pail took a few hours to clean. Enough for a few meals is enough for me. good luck.

Jamie king
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