Trip up North for Splake and Smelt!

After bombing out on splake fishing several times last winter, we did some more research found a different smaller lake in a new spot that also had rainbow smelt in it.  With some time off coming for dad and my bro and the weather really warm we headed off way up in northern MN on Sunday.  We left really early in the morning, the roads were icy and bad and the trip took forever.  We had gotten some good tips from a new friend at the DNR and some great pointers here for splake and smelt.

When we finally got to the lake, my dad and brother began to setup the fish house and told me to start fishing right away as I was the reason for the trip (my lifelist scrapbook).  We had one hole drilled and I started to fish while they set up the portable and bango!!  My first Rainbow Smelt!

We were all super excited because we hadn't seen one before.  By this time the portable was set with more holes to fish, so dad fished in the one the smelt came in to try for his lifer smelt ................ then the unthinkable happened (after all the bad luck we had had with splake before) we were hoping that at least one of us would luck into one and I would be THAT one!!  Sure enough instead of a smelt out popped a splake, also the first one we'd ever seen!

At first my dad was really upset as he wanted me to catch one, just one, and we'd probably never fish splake again ........EVER!!!  Then my brother hooked a nice big smelt, they have very sharp teeth!!

Then my dad got another lifer!

Then my brother broke the world Rainbow Smelt record!!!! J/K

It was starting to get dark, and still no more splake.  Was my dad's to be the only one?  Would my hopes of finally getting my splake pic for my book be dashed again?  Suddenly a tap tap tap and I set the hook!  This was a big fish and was ripping drag like crazy, we knew it was a splake because splake are the only full size fish in this lake.  It came up under the ice several times and then I got the head turned up the hole and disaster struck ........... AGAIN!!!  If you look closely at the picture you can see my jig and waxworm flying thru the air as the fish spit it at me, made a quick flip, and took off again forever.  I was feeling cursed.  You can see how big he was, this was an 8 inch hole and my dad's hand as he was making a diving leap to try and get to it in time!!

Well at least we had all gotten our lifer smelts, dad's splake, and I lost one.  We planned to return  before sun up the next morning as we packed out the long hike in the dark.  When we got to our room something wasn't right ........... it was Smelty he'd beaten us back to the room! 8)

After very little sleep, we headed back out on the long trip to the lake before the sun would come up, we made it down to the ice and got setup just in time.  Again my dad told me to start fishing while they setup.  Once again tap tap tap! Then Wham, I hooked up with not a huge fish but one I knew wasn't a smelt, my dad and bro were both perched by the hole, this one wasn't going to get away, and here he is my first lifer splake!

Not long after we'd gotten there and the pressure was mostly off, only my bro remained splakeless!  Not for long though!!


Now everyone had caught both the species we were hoping to get, the pressure was off, mission accomplished, we messed around trying different things and explored the lake a bit.  Here's my brother and I both happy with our newest lifers!

We caught a few more smelts and a couple small splakes, so we decided to keep a couple of each and try them at home.  We were just getting ready to pack it up to get an early start on the long icy ride home, and I suddenly felt a shock rip up my rod to my wrist, I set the hook, and the drag began to scream again!!  Up and down and up and down and finally the head turned just right and I pulled him into the hole head first and we plopped him out onto the ice, not as big as the one I lost, but a very sweet looking 16 Incher for another photo for my scrapbook!  YES!!  I was so happy!

We got one last quick shot of the three of us, it was nice because there wasn't anybody there either day, and I don't think there is hardly any other day either, it's way out in the woods.  Anyway we put my brothers camera on video so we could catch a frame of the 3 of us together.

Well that was my story of a successful adventure for a fish that has been one of the most frustrating we'd ever gone after, way up in wolf country on a slushy little lake, the splake finally got it's picture taken!  Oh, the smelts were a bonus, and super cool to catch ..................... at first!  These weren't hard to catch, they were relentless and quickly became as annoying as drum in the Minnesota river!  Good fishing pals, next stop white crappies!!!

PS if anybody wants tips on how we caught either splake or smelt, just ask, and a big thanks to everyone for the tips here that helped bring our adventure to a successful end.

Species List: 
Smelt, Rainbow


andy's picture

Nice fishing trip there fellas.  I enjoyed reading the report!  Oh and that photo you got of "the one that got away" is priceless, FP4L.  If you hadn't found success with that HUGE splake later, you would have gotten The Stick for sure!

FishingPals4Life's picture

Thanks Andy, I was so happy to get another one and then especially another big one!  We all had a great trip, the weather was kind of crappy but it was warm and there was no wind so that made it more fun too, we could go outside the shack and not blow away or freeze!

Outdoors4life's picture

Those lifers you work for are the ones you remember. The one that got away is always on the back of your mind. I went on my Splake voyage in the heat of the summer and did not catch one. Very cool to have gotten a couple and some pic to share. The lifer experience is about the memory not the catch and I believe that you have a great memory for the two lifers of the trip.

It is all perspective!

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IsaacsFishingCorner's picture

Great report! I could really feel for you on the one that got away, that picture was perfectly timed. Congrats on the new lifers!

Mike B's picture

Congratulations on the lifelisters dude. The 16 inch splake is a real beaut. The one you lost looks like a real hearttbreaker. Up North where I am you still got a shot at saving a catch like that that comes off at the hole because the ice is so thick the fish is usually trapped there for a second or two before it can escape.

mike b

FishingPals4Life's picture

Thanks Mike, that's exactly what my dad said lol.  The ice on Ottertail now is about 2 feet or more, the ice on this little lake was about 9 or 10 inches, really weird because it's so far up there. He told me he's seen ice so thick you had to put an extender on the auger to get thru, but I have yet to see that!! 8)

Goldenfishberg's picture

Awesome report! congrats on the lifers man! Gotta love a hard earned hard water lifer! The one that got away is always stomach churning and diharrea inducing, that action shot of the jig flying out of the fishes mouth sure is pricless though. 

Ya just Can't catch um from the couch.

FishingPals4Life's picture

I think the little smelts did give me diharrea from eating to many of them lol!

FishingPals4Life's picture

Thanks guys!  Our next mission is for white crappies and then maybe back north for lake trout this time, hopefully not quite as FAR north!

DinoFish's picture

Hey, that's pretty great, congrats on lifer smelt and splake! I've never gotten either, but always thought hybrid fish are super cool. That's too bad that big fish got away! I It's the worst when that happens. Good luck on the next ones you guys are targeting!

"Fishing is much more than fish... It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers." - Herbert Hoover