Illustrations by Joseph R. Tomelleri ©
During their spawning period in April, people typically use dip-nets to capture (e.g., term; "Smelt-dipping) them from streams. The rest of the year, rainbow smelt school in lakes adjacent to cool, dark waters.
Smelt populations in the Great Lakes are no longer as large as they once were and smelt dipping has suffered accordingly. The best smelt dipping these days is in Upper Peninsula streams.
An unusual hook-and-line fishery has developed during the winter. Using lights at night to draw smelt up from the bottom, anglers using tiny hooks tipped with insect larvae (primarily spikes and wax worms) catch smelt in a handful of inland lakes and some Great Lakes bays. The best-known hook-and-line smelt fisheries are Crystal, Higgins and Green Lake (Grand Traverse County) as well as in Keweenaw Bay near Baraga. But other lakes with good smelt populations include Lake Charlevoix, Gratiot Lake (Keweenaw County), and Dodge and Island Lakes in Schoolcraft County.
Department of Natural Resources