Ontario Lakers Grabbing Fire Brined Smelt

By Tom Armstrong | 06/14/2013

We’ve waiting a long time for spring to show in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, but it seems to finally arrived. While it’s not the first time Thunder Bay residents have had ice on lakes and snow in the woods on Victoria Day Weekend. Meanwhile, for the annual spring walleye opener it was certainly unusual and an unfortunate start to spring.

As June rolled around and the cold days started to become a thing of the past, water temperatures warmed and I started fishing for spring lake trout, one of my favourite spring trips.

Come spring, I have several spots I regularly fish in Lake Superior and the Nipigon River that hold good numbers of lake trout. The fish seem to move into these areas for a few weeks, are very temperature dependent. It usually takes an unsuccessful trip or two, checking things out until the fishing gets good.

The first trip I made to these areas this spring had water temps in the high 30’s and low 40’s, and unsurprisingly, the action was relatively slow. Once the water temps warmed in early June to the high 40’s, the fish started to move in and action heated up. One constant though, over several trips, was that I was consistently catching fish using Pautzke’s Fire Brined baits.
Earlier this spring, I got out for a late night smelt fishing trip and dip netted hundreds of smelt during their spring run; a very popular activity here along Lake Superior’s North Shore. Many smelt anglers target them for their popularity as table fare, but for me they are a great bait for lake trout, brook trout, and one of my favourite winter pike baits.

Unfortunately, the one issue I’ve had over the years is keeping the smelt together and on the hook. Once frozen, they tend to turn very soft and mushy, and fall off the hook quickly, making them a bit tough to fish with.

Fortunately, I’ve found the perfect solution for these baits is Pautzke’s Fire Brine.  Along with curing baits, it toughens the bait up, helping it stay on the hook, and last a great deal longer. Fire Brine colours up the bait, keeping the natural shine while adding some great colour. There are a number of colour options available, and this spring I’ve been using the chartreuse, orange and purple brine on my smelt.
My first trip out this spring, with the very cold water temperatures, I was skeptical we would get any fish, and after watching several other anglers in the area fish unsuccessfully, I figured we were too early, and the water was just too cold. Despite the cold conditions, we managed to catch a couple fish, and these came while slowly fishing Fire Brined smelt on jigs, worked through the current.
Later on that same week, after several days of warm air temps, we headed back to the river to try again. After work one evening, and after meeting several other anglers coming off the launch, were again discouraged, as there were very few fish coming out of the river.  After launching we saw very little action from other boats as we got ready.

I rigged up, threw out a Fire Brined smelt and drew an instant hit, but after several seconds of screaming drag I was met with slack line and a lost fish. Once I got myself together, and actually began paying attention, it didn’t take long to connect again. Over the next 90 minutes, we had the best spring lake trout action I’ve ever had, catching fish almost exclusively on jigs with Fire Brined smelt.
As far as preparing these smelt, it was one of the most painless curing processes you can find, with Fire Brine’s one step, out of the bottle mix. I took a large Ziploc of several dozen frozen smelt, added about half a bottle of Fire Brine, along with a small spoonful of Fire Power Krill, shook the bag up, and let it sit in the fridge overnight. After about 12 hours I removed the smelt from the bag, and this quality, fish-catching bait was ready to go. So far, I’ve used chartreuse, purple and orange brine and caught fish on both. Try it on your smelt and you, too, could have your best fishing day.