Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Kennebec Smelt Fishing

When it comes to winter activities, you really can't beat smelt camp for true Maine flavor. Every winter, little villages hastily constructed shacks spring up in the eddies of the Kennebec River where the ice is thickest. Some glow etherially at night, constructed only of two-by-fours and plastic sheeting.

This little smelt-shack village is Worthing's, in Randolph, in a little elbow of the river just before in reaches the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Bridge. Shacks come in sizes from 2-man to 8-man, and each contains benches, a row of lines on either side, and a wood stove.
Waiting for the buttons to jiggle

My nephew is an avid smelter and has been renting a shack a couple of times a week since Worthing's put them on the ice. We also make a smelt camp outing an annual family event. We may be the only catch-and-release smelt fishers on the river! As a rule we give the fish a smooch and toss them back.

Give a fish a kiss!
Smelt are delicious, though, if someone in you party wants to prepare the fish.

Smelt Shack Village by day
The tides dictate the rental times, with a rental lasting 6 hours, from high to low or vice versa. Some folks say fishing is better during the night tides; I couldn't say from personal experience. Smelt Camp is a rowdier place after the sun goes down, however, and arguable less family-friendly, if you'd rather not expose the little ones to salty language.

Other Kennebec smelt camps include:

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