ChicagoLand Fishing Forums banner
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
G

·
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There have been many threads here on CLF in the past arguing the ethics of fishing for bedding Bass, calling for harsher restrictions on our struggling Perch fishery, and calling for more C&R zones on local streams & rivers, some have even suggested a need for Catfish Limits. I'm sure that anyone who was around for "The Good Old Days" of Smelt fishing remembers what a real Smelt run was like, not dozens of fish a night, not hundreds, but THOUSANDS of fish caught per night by THOUSANDS of fishermen up & down the Lake, bucket after bucket full of those tasty little fish, but THAT WAS THEN! Now there are only a very few people fishing, & even less catching! WHY?? Because the Smelt are GONE! sure there are still a few smelt to be had but these are only the remnants of a once thriving population, So...My question is this If the Smelt are almost gone from the Lake should we be out there trying to catch them, or should the nets be put away until that day when the population returns to more historic levels?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
85 Posts
AFTER READING A PREVIOUS THREAD AND A REPLY MADE WITH CATCHING ONLY 38 SMELTS, I HAVE TO AGREE, THIS ESPECIALLY BEING HARD FOR ME BEING THAT I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO TRYING MY FIRST NET. I WOULD RATHER LOBBY FOR THE DNR TO TRY STOCKING AND WAITING A FEW YEARS.
 
G

·
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Smelt are not native to lake Michigan, they got here by accident, in the early 1900's Michigan stocked them into some of their inland lakes to feed stocked Salmon & Trout, they somehow found their way to Lake Michigan in the 30's (either by way of feeder creeks that flow into the lake, or by human intervention) We started seining them in the early 50's, we then stocked Salmon & Trout into the Lake to control Alewife, us older guys will remember mountains of dead Alewife on our beaches in the 60's that could be smelled for miles on a hot summer day. Now that the Salmon have gotten the Alewife under control they are also utilizing the Smelt population as their forage, Smelt like cold dark water & this suits the Salmons summer feeding habits to a "T" now throw in the declining zooplankton and you have a diminished smelt population, due to the enormous size of the Lake any Stocking program for smelt probably wouldn't be cost effective, as I see it the only answer to the problem is stop taking them until the population returns to a number that indicates they aren't at risk of disappearing altogether.
 
G

·
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Well my guess would be 3 reason's why the smelt population's are as they are today...
1) You guessed it Commercial fishing...For year's commercial fisherman netted these fish in the great lakes by the hundreds of thousand's...
2)As you said lack of forage/food..
3)Too many predatorial fish & not enough bait fish...You see many years ago they started stocking these great lakes with salmon & trout because the alewive population's grew to outragous number's..Well the fish they stocked did their job & did their job very well...If you've fished the BIG POND(I just had to call it big pond :)21 )for any amount of time..You'd have notice that the alewives population's are down also...So all these predatorial fish have to feed on something...Guess what it's the smelt & perch & anything else they can get in their mouth...It's all just the dominoe effect...
Well that's just my oppinon...For what that's worth...
 
G

·
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Alewife aren't a native fish either, ST. Lawrence Seaway let them in! Rather than any type of new Stocking program I think backing off of existing programs is more the likely solution, if there isn't enough food to go around you don't stock more Salmon & Trout, it's that simple, unfortunately I'm sure this would rally the Salmon Charterboat captians into a display of public outrage to rival the Haymarket Riots! Everyone keeps saying the Lake is changing...Wake up guys...It's ALREADY changed!



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bob Hicks on 2002-04-25 18:20 ]</font>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
356 Posts
The existing salmon are probably eating alot of the stocked fingerlings too. So they need to stock more to keep the salmon fed, so they can return to the hatcheries, be stripped of their eggs, raise little salmon to release to the lake, to be eaten by the bigger fish on their way to the hatcheries and so and so on! It's a fish eat fish lake out there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
30 Posts
If in fact smelt populations are reaching very low numbers, they should be protected like any other species would be. I just wonder if the people who would make these types of decisions are monitoring smelt populations at all.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,326 Posts
I've enjoyed the tradition of smelt fishing for several years. I haven't taken the nets out for the past 6 seasons now.

Smelt prefer to spawn in dark waters. When the runs were good, lake visibility was measured in inches. Now it's measured in feet - thanks to the zebra mussels. It's not known what effect the gobys have had from a predation and competition standpoint as well.

Charter boat captains have reported marking large schools of smelt well off-shore. Perhaps they are spawning out in 60 feet of water.

IMHO a ban would be meaningless. As was stated by many posters - they've netted less than a handful of fish each outing.

The ecosystem has been forever changed by the foreign invaders. The spawning smelt are gone from our shorelines and harbors, probably for good.

The social gathering is still a blast. Too bad the smelt can't join the party as in years past.

BTW: Be careful about suggesting bans. Once the Chicago Park District restricts smelt fishing, the chance of *ever* getting access back would be slim to none. That's the last thing lakefront anglers need.

God Bless



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Goosepit on 2002-04-25 23:07 ]</font>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
845 Posts
Fellas,

I have some thoughts on these issues.

I was a youngster at the time of the great smelt runs of the past.(Early eighties, if memory serves.) Years and booze have fadded the memory of those few times my dad took us (he wasn't a fish junkie, like me). But so long as I live I'll never forget the sight of a full net. (christmas tree, was what they called it) I'm tellin' ya it was burned on my brain.

As I aged I found my way back to the lake, around the early nineties. Needless to say I was very disappointed. But that memory of a net shimmering under the light of colman lantern, about to break from the weight of smelt, kept me going back. Year after year I told myself that I was just there on the wrong night, it was too cold/too warm, the "run" had come or gone. (Here again, you can tell I'm a cub fan.) It wasn't until I found this sight that I realized, in a final kind of way, what I had suspected all along. The smelt of days gone by, have gone by.

So, being the inquisitve fellow I am, I began to wonder, why? I have drawn alot of my opinions from the information on this sight, and alot of it parallels the perch situation. I remembered reading a thread about the big meeting last year that I think Hicks went to. He reported that the sportfishermen have little if any effect on the perch in lake michigan, a fact he relayed from the DNR. Any way, the conclusion I drew was that the perch had been over fished commercially, and when that was stopped, the perch began to make a come back. According to my sources, (fishing buddies) the perch still aren't what they used to be, but they are coming back strong.

Here's something else I noticed. If you really want to find smelt, go to the supermarket. That's where the bag in my freezer came from.(Shame on Gus) Or go to any good restaurant for that matter.(A greek one is prefered of course) Smelt is on the menu all over chicago and in the grocery stores to. And I'm pretty sure all these fish aren't coming from Joe smelt guy down by the shore for one month a year. There has to be a commercial fishery to support this kind of a market.

So, I've finally gotten to my point. It's got to be the commercial fishing that is ruining the smelt fishery, and here are some questions I have regarding this. Who regulates this com. fishing? Is there even a season for dragging a net across the middle of the lake? If smelt like dark water, I'm assuming they spend most of their time in the deep water of the open lake. Does anyone really know what really goes on out there?

I feel like these are questions that need to be answered before good solutions to the smelt issue can be addressed.

As I said before, this is just my opinion. I'm not a biologist or a fisheries manager of any kind. I just want to be able to smelt like when I was a kid. Any and all thoughts, facts, ideas ect. are a welcome response.


Don't eat too much,
Gus
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
190 Posts
MY 2 cents,The lake has changed Crappie, Bluegill, Northern pike, Walleye, & yes Zebra mussels, DAM GOBYS .I dont think they had this varietey? BACK IN THE GOOD OLE DAYS. I remember as a kid trying to go to the beach but there were too many Alwives. We have a very small part of the lake here compard to our surronding states, but some do very well Smelting in THERE Rivers & Streams Taking drums of Smelt.Who,s going to stop them .Enjoy what you have & leave some for others.
 
G

·
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
BTW: Be careful about suggesting bans. Once the Chicago Park District restricts smelt fishing, the chance of *ever* getting access back would be slim to none. That's the last thing lakefront anglers need.

God Bless
If the smelt fisherman continue to be pig's on the lake front i.e throwing their trash all over the place..You might find a ban on smelt fishing in the parks anyhow...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
85 Posts
I WAS READIND A REPORT A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO PUT OUT BY THE DNR AND WHAT IT HAD SAID WAS THAT THERE ARE A SHRIMP LIKE CREATURE THAT LIVES IN THE BOTTOM SURFACE OF THE LAKE AND MANY FISH THRIVE ON IT. OVER THE LAST YEARS, THEY HAVE ALMOST VANISHED FROM THE NORTHERN PORTIONS. WHITE FISH ARE IN TROUBLE AS WELL AS SMELT. SOME OF THE OTHER SPIECIES ARE ADAPTING THOUGH. I WILL TRY TO FIND THE WEBSIGHT THAT I SAW THIS INFORMATION. IT MIGHT EVEN HAVE BEEN ON THE DNR POST FOR CLF.

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: SPNSER001 on 2002-04-26 11:03 ]</font>
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,326 Posts
On 2002-04-26 10:25, Deer Slayer wrote:
[quote:jbig8s57]

If the smelt fisherman continue to be pig's on the lake front i.e throwing their trash all over the place..You might find a ban on smelt fishing in the parks anyhow...
[/quote:jbig8s57]

Yep...

Sometimes we're our own worst enemy.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
84 Posts
I have been reading the discussion these last few days and thought I'd add my nickle's worth.
I know that commercial fishing has caused major damage to the Great Lakes fisheries over that past 150 years, but they shouldn't always be our whipping boy, especially in this case. There is a limited smelt fishery in Lake Michigan in Wisconsin waters. It is a trawl fishery, limited entry, quotas, seasons and is often monitored with DNR personnel on board during fishing. I have never seen any frozen smelt from the US in the stores around here. They come from Canada, specifically, Lake Erie, and the Gulf of St. Lorwance (Atlantic Ocean).
I have to agree with the previous posting about the trashing of the lake front. I used to find some nice lanterns, coolers and other gear left behind by drunk smelt anglers in the dark. There would also be mountains of trash that would often be washed into the lake, trees trashed for fires, snow fences torn down and used in the fires, trash cans thrown into the lake, just recently the new concrete at the Shedd is popped up in places because of idiots making fires directly on the pavement. They just poured that a couple of years ago.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
8,116 Posts
I've never "fished" for smelt since moving here from Michigan 10 years ago, it just has never seemed worth the effort for the results. I have, however, dipped (as I call it) smelt all over Michigan for the past 25 years, so here's my take the topic. Where I grew up, all the smelt dipping was done in the St. Clair river with either nets with extendable handles (20 ft. long or more, no kidding) or with weighted wire throw baskets. Due to the depth and current, the smelt hugged the shore line, thus putting them where dippers could consistenly get them. At the peak of the run, you could fill a 5 gal. bucket in about an hour give or take, I called me dad, who still lives about 100 yards from the river and he says nothing's changed, indicating a fairly stable population there. A second call to a college buddy who lives in the UP of Michigan (I went to school in Slt. Ste. Marie) indicated that smelt populations are the same as I remeber from the college days. We once dipped 11-5 gal. buckets full in about 3 hours and were stupid enough to take them home (Carp river, St. Ignace)! The key there is that they spawn in small rivers and tributaries and are easy to get at. My point to all this rambling is that, while the population may be at somewhat of a cyclic low point, I believe the real problem lies in the smelt not coming within reach of lakefront fishermen. When you compund the clear water issue, with the low level of the lake itself the smelt are probably just not using the spawning areas of the past (although I don't attribute as much weight to the low water levels as to the differnce in water clarity). In my humble opinion, a moratorium on dipping would have not any measurable effect on the overall population here. Again, just my opinion. Tommy
 
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top