Dip Net Fishing For Smelts

rainbow smelt dip net fishing american smelt pei prince edward island

Every spring our rivers get overrun with rainbow smelt making their way up river to spawn. There is a dip net fishery for smelt that opens 15 days before the trout fishing season opens. It’s an excellent excuse to get out on the river and scout it out, all the while enjoying in the bounty of smelts.

In the video below I’m using waders and wade out into the middle of the river. You really don’t need waders to dip net fish for rainbow smelt though. There are plenty of places where the smelt will bunch up close to shore. River bends, culverts, and undercut riverbanks can all harbour schools of smelt. All one has to do it sneak up on them by land and lunge to get a net full. Even though waders are not a requirement, I would recommend at the very least wearing rubber boots.


As an added bonus, the smelt run offers ample opportunity to observe other wildlife. I saw a couple bald eagles, a mink, and untold numbers of sea gulls last time I was out. I even saw a pair of mallard ducks, one of which held a smelt in his mouth. I had no idea ducks ate fish until that day.


  1. howard levett

    Great video Ben. I’m ignorant about smelts. Are they bait or food?

    1. bensmckinley@gmail.com (Post author)

      Thanks Howard,

      I eat them, and they’re quite popular with locals here, alot of people actually ice fish for them.

      They would work great as bait if regulations allowed. I know they’re a favourite forage fish of stripped bass, and larger brook and rainbow trout will eat them as well.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *