April 1 is the big day. Smelt fishing for 2010 is back at the Chicago Park District access areas and for many Chicagoans, its a tradition that cannot be given up.
Why would some consider not going smelting? Hmmmm.... lack of fish maybe?
Smelt fishing has not been the same in many years. I remember doing a TV show on Chicago's far south side. I remember holding a Coleman lantern over the waters edge and looking into the clear waters of Lake Michigan. It was like looking into a minnow tank at a local bait shop.
Fifteen or more years ago, the smelt were plentiful. Today, one or two in the net will casue an uproar of cheers on Chicago's lakefront.
Smelt are a small fish that come to the shores in the spring to spawn. For some unknown reason the just aren't seen around here anymore. Have they been eaten up by the cohos and browns that also cruise the Chicago shorelines at this time of year? Has the invasion of zebra mussells had anything to do with this? The water is much clearer now on the lake, maybe the fish are finding off shore structrure for their spawning rituals.
None the less, the smelting tradition lives on for the outdoor social networking. Netters will gather in small groups, grill brats and burgers, have a few pops and just enjoy the well lit Chicago skyline after dark.
I have a smelt net. Actually, the last time I went smelting, everything was set up but the net was never lowered. We grilled, talked, and had a good time just being outdoors.