SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - Perched on buckets inside the warmth of a small shack, two anglers lower their baited jigs into the chilly water beneath their feet early Sunday afternoon.
Marc Morrison and his cousin Mike Wedge have been ice fishing at the end of Glovers Shore Road in Summerside for over 16 years. They know patience is key, and wait a minute, give a jig or two of the rod attached with barbs and hooks until a group of smelt appears.
“We throw the bait out first – oats or chicken because it attracts the fish with the smell – and then we use a small jiggling rod,” said Wedge. “The smelt notice the movement and swim into the hole. We then line the spear (with the smelt) and aim.”
The pair, seated in the well-maintained shelter heated by a small wood-burning stove, catch 40 smelt within the hour.
“Smelts will just bounce off the bank and come swimming towards us,” said Morrison. “We usually have good luck in this spot and have been here for years. Plus, we’re close enough to our grandparents’ home to get their internet Wi-Fi.”
Smelt fishing is an addictive pastime, according to Morrison.
“It’s nice to get out on the frozen water and get a fire going.”
The shack is shared between family and friends, but Morrison and Wedge try to get out on the ice at least three to four times a week.
“Yesterday we took out the frying pan and threw in some garlic, butter, and fried up the smelts we caught. We threw the guts back in the water, so you can see a couple of heads floating around in there right now.”
- Mike Wedge
Smelt ranges in size from four to 12 inches.
“We try to eat smelts every weekend. But there are so many people that will take the fish too, so we always have someone to give at the end of the day,” said Wedge.
Morrison and Wedge said the smelt have been plentiful so far, unlike last year.
“There have been times we come out and catch no fish, but there’s a crazy amount today. They are loving that canned chicken, but sometimes we do tuna as bait,” said Wedge, while tossing his catch into a nearby bucket.
“We like to keep them (smelt) guessing,” said Morrison laughing.
With the dip in temperature this past week, a temporary winter village has sprouted across the frozen harbour. The ice is six inches deep where Morrison and Wedge fish, but over the course of the season it will freeze to a foot or more.
“The biggest thing is to mark your hole whenever you are done with it, so some people spray paint the area or put a Christmas tree in it – basically some way to identify that there is a hole in the ice for safety,” Wedge said.
Click here to learn more about smelt fishing in Summerside.