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Crestliner2008

Rainbow Smelt

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Not the usual question here, but does anyone know of good online information source for this forage species? I two of the lake I frequent, the smelt is the main forage species. I'm pretty sure I know where they go in the fall, but I'm always looking for more information on forage species.

Forage knowledge is much more important to successful fishing, than knowing where the spawning beds are in the springtime, for instance.

I've done my own online Google; very confusing. Which is why I'm asking here. Thanks folks!  :)

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Okay, so I did my own Googling <is that a word?> and I see what you mean.  Being from a state with a long history of these fish, I also checked our DNR website.  Here's a link to their report:

http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10364_18958-45690--,00.html

From my own standpoint, I don't normally figure smelt as a baitfish when I'm think of bass.  This is probably because our population lives in the depths of the great lakes for most of the year, and only come into the shallows during the spring of the year to spawn.  I have seen maybe twice where strong easterly winds have driven near shore water temps down into the 40's in the fall where they have shown up while I was pier fishing for salmon, but it doesn't happen very often.

We also have a number of inland lakes that have decent populations of smelt where the bass may get the chance to key in on them from time to time.  But still as a forage for bass, I don't really consider them a primary source.  These fish live in the deepest and coldest water (remember their preferred temp is 45 degrees), and are normally only active at night.  So when I look at the difference of habitat between bass and smelt, they just seem too far apart.  

I could only think to put the two together would either be in the early spring, or perhaps to the late period after the fall turnover (when water temps from shallow to deep mix equally) just prior to ice up.

One last note is that the little critters are fairly tasty!

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Thank you much for the input! Smelt were introduced, in the aforementioned lakes, to supplement the lake trout & salmon stockings. White & yellow perch, bass and the trouts go for them. Our lake has depths to 100'+, but an average of only about 30'. The bass stay with these large bait fish schools, especially in the summer time, eating smelt and perch.

Where the smelt go, when the water cools in the fall, is what I'm most interested in, and why. I've been told they are "suppose" to head to the streams. But is that to spawn? Or some other reason?

Knowing these answers can help me focus in on the bass more accurately. This is why I want to know more about the "life cycles" of the landlocked rainbow smelt.

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As far as I know, all smelt spawn during the spring, either in small creeks or in some places along a rocky shoreline.  My guess would be that they are either following or looking for food to forage on.

Only lake I fish regularly with a smelt population here in Michigan is Higgins Lake.  Some very deep water up to 120' deep, with some sunken islands, steep drop-offs, and expansive flats in the 60'+ range.  As far as I know, nobody up there sees or looks for smelt until the lake freezes over in January.  By then, you'll see little shanty towns on top of 30' - 50' of water where anglers fish for smelt at night.

I'll be up there in a few weeks, so I'll have to ask around.

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Smelt are spring spawners. Lots of lakes in my area have smelt in them, as well as smallies. Generally, smelt stay very deep, as they have a low tolerance for warm water: lower even than lake trout. I believe their preferred temp range, at least in Ontario, is about 6-15 C.

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They spawn in the spring. I never saw any in tribs in the fall. They like colder water than alewife. I know they can be very deep in summer. Not sure about fall.

The best info will be Great Lakes states: try MI DNR and NY DEC sites, as well as universities.

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The smelt & perch group together in the summer, on off-shore structures here in my reservoir (hill land type with depths to 100'+). Depths of these productive summertime structures vary from 27' - 35'. They more or less disappear from these structures as fall approaches. The smallies disappear as well. I've searched the shallower structures and found only spotty action. I'm thinking maybe both the food source and the bass go deeper(?).

This is why I wanted to know their habits, so that I can figure out where they go when the weather turns cold. The smallmouths are never far behind them. Thanks for the input thus far.

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I read a study that tracked smallies in a deep northern lake. There were cisco's, but no smelt. After the thermocline broke up the bass moved deep, as much as 60feet. The researcher's felt the reason was that the thermal barrier was broken giving bass access to the deeps, and cisco.

One tack might be to identify smelt forage. Here's a stab: Smelt can be piscivorous. During summer they may be keying on YOY perch. As the perch grow they may become too large for smelt.

Maybe you have Mysis ('opossum shrimp') in your lake? If so, these guys live deep (glacial relicts in many waters) and maybe the smelt switch to them.

My guess is, since you are on a large water body, that your DNR or a university has something on smelt forage.

LOL Ask a question and more good questions arise.

If you figure it out, you may be alone out there, with a bent rod.

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If you figure it out, you may be alone out there, with a bent rod.

Precisely what I'm attempting to do! ;)

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