A slender fish with a long pointed head and a characteristic forked tail, smelt rarely grow more than a foot long. Smelt are often caught for home consumption but are also used as bait fish for catching a variety of fish, especially pike. The problem with using fresh fish as bait, however, is that they often go bad in the heat of the sun and storage is always a problem. If you brine smelt, you can preserve them longer and not worry that they will start smelling and attracting flies.
Items you will need
- 2 boxes kosher salt
- Freezer bags
- 2 to 4 pounds of smelt
Fill the cooler halfway with ice. Pour water into the cooler until the water level is 4 or 5 inches high.
Pour in an entire box of kosher salt. Mix with the ice and water until all of it has dissolved. This is the brine.
Add 2 to 4 pounds of fresh smelt to the brine and mix it around until all of it is covered in brine. Add more water if needed to completely cover the smelt. You can pre-cut the smelt into bait-sized pieces if you wish, which will speed up the brining process.
Let the smelt soak in the ice and water brine for 10 to 12 hours, or until the ice is all melted.
Remove the smelt from the cooler and pack into ziplock freezer bags. Add a 1/2 cup of salt to each freezer bag and shake until it is evenly distrubuted all over the smelt. Remove as much air as possible from the bag before zipping it closed.
Place bags of brined smelt in the freezer until you are ready to go fishing. When you bring the brined smelt on a fishing trip, keep them in the ziplock bags until you are ready to cut them up for bait. If you have already cut them up, they are good to go.
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