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Smelt is Getting Some Love During Michigan's Ice Season

Corey Olsen/

Ice anglers in Kalamazoo County, Mich., are finding success on Gull Lake this season.

The target fish is small, but it's tasty. What are they catching? Smelt.

"It's just something you can't do everywhere," Levi Riegle of Paw Paw says. "There are so many species of fish around the state but this is the only spot in the area to fish smelt."

Well, not the only spot, but one of just a few. Other lakes with species include Crystal, Higgins and Green lakes in Grand Traverse County, Keweenaw Bay near Baraga, Lake Charlevoix, Gratiot Lake in Keweenaw County and Dodge and Island lakes in Schoolcraft County.

The smelt population in Gull Lake almost died out years ago when a few different trout species were introduced to the lake. When the trout effort stopped, the smelt population rebounded big time.

Corey Olsen/
Corey Olsen/

Anglers on the lake fish over 70 feet of water and use ultralight rods with very light line and small hooks with jigs to attract the fish. For bait, something that looks like a spike or wax worm, scented, does the trick.

Because smelt are so small, the anglers use fish finders to spot the schools of fish. They also watch their rod tips very closely.

The fishing goes into the evening, when the anglers use underwater green lights to attract the schools of fish.


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Smelt is Getting Some Love During Michigan's Ice Season