Ice smelt fishing has grown in popularity in Canada and parts of the northeastern United States, where anglers hole up in heated shacks during the winter months to capture rainbow smelt through the ice. In Maine, smelt fishing is often successful, and as a result, smelt fishers can find many resources across the area. Although there are no smelt-shack rentals within town of Harpswell (harpswell.Maine.gov), there are a number of shack-rental companies nearby, along with at least one supply shop. Each angler should also familiarize himself with Maine fishing-license laws.
Smelt and Technique
Rainbow smelt is a flavorful -- but relatively small -- fish that typically lives inshore along the coast, particularly along New England and into parts of Maine. Smelt anglers fishing during the winter months use a number of techniques to capture these fish, often boring holes into iced-over water systems and waiting for smelt to "run" in schools past a particular breakage in the ice. Once an angler has found a school of smelt, it is often possible to catch dozens of fish from the same spot, making smelt ice fishing an often-fruitful endeavor in Maine. For those who prefer to ice fish in comfort, one town near Harpswell has multiple smelt-fishing camps.
Dresden is one of the premiere smelt-fishing spots in the state, located less than 30 miles from the town of Harpswell. Here, three different establishments host smelt anglers each year. One of these is the James Eddy Smelt Camp (angelfire.com/me3/JamesEddySmeltCamps), located on James Eddy Road. Groups of any size can rent shacks with kerosene lighters, hooks, lines, and sinkers already included. Other smelt ice-fishing camps in the Dresden area include Sonny's Smelt Fishing (no website; 94 Everson Rd, Dresden; 207-737-8500) and Prudy's Smelt Camp (no website; 334 Cedar Grove, Dresden; 207-737-8826).
Gear and Bait
Smelt anglers need certain types of gear and bait in order for fishing success. Hand lines are a popular way to catch smelt for some fishermen, while others prefer glass-spinning outfits. Some of the most successful kinds of bait for rainbow smelt include blood worms, grass shrimp, sand worms, and small bait fish. Anglers can often buy these supplies from the smelt camp itself, or from one of the many bait shops in the area. Purse Line Bait (no website; Cundys Harbor Road, Harpswell; 207-729-0341) is one supply shop within Harpswell that carries some of these supplies.
Harpswell anglers should also review Maine fishing laws before smelt fishing in the state. Any person who fishes within Maine must obtain a fishing license in order to do so. At the time of publication, this could cost anywhere between $11 and $200 depending on the duration of the license. Additionally, those wishing to smelt fish must register with the Saltwater Recreational Fishing Registry, since smelt live part of their lives in the ocean. Anglers must also restrict the amount of smelt that they catch and keep, an amount that changes yearly.
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