Summerside, P.E.I. - All may seem barren as winter falls and the Summerside harbour freezes, but beneath the surface a world is teeming with life.
“We’ve been smelt fishing for about 15 years. I grew up on the water, so it’s just a hobby for us to do in our backyard,” said Mike Wedge, who perched his tiny shack at the end of Glovers Shore Road, on the edge of the frozen Summerside harbour.
“I got the shack for out $300, and we’ve had it for about three seasons now. Usually the shacks last us about three or four seasons and then they start to rot, so you have to keep it out the water to last,” he said.
As the temperature takes a dip and the ice becomes solid and safe, the smelt shacks will move further out.
“The ice is eight inches now, and that’s good,” said Wedge, who shares his passion for the popular winter activity with his family. He added, “I would say the season for smelt kicks off from mid to end of December, and wraps up in March when the ice starts to break.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada set the catch limit of smelt to 60 per person, a day.
“Some days you don’t see any, and others they’re just polluting the water. And you can catch zero to 100 on any given day.”
Wedge often ventures out during the morning or when the tide comes pouring in. He doesn’t mind the wind chill.
“It gets warm in there with the fire going. Sometimes I sit with my shirt, and it’s just the place to come and relax,” he said, with a grin.
Smelt vary in length, averaging from four to 10 inches.
They are caught using a small jiggling rod, barbs and hooks, followed by bait, spears or small nets. According to Wedge, they taste much better than its name might imply.
“All my family live down here near the harbour, so everyone enjoys eating smelt. It’s just a little treat for the weekend. It’s usually a breakfast treat, and you just fry them up in the morning and have them with Hash Browns.”
Three lone smelt shacks dot the serene Summerside harbour, but soon a temporary winter village will sprout across the ice.
“I have a lot of friends who do this, and we spread out and move our shacks a couple of times a year if nothing is going on,” he concluded.
To learn more about smelt fishing in Summerside, visit www.facebook.com/Smelt-Fishing-252518241305/