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JBMasterAngler

Burntside Smelt

33 posts in this topic

On the DNR lake finder it states that smelt had overtaken the tullibees in burntside, but the smelt have shown a continued downfall in population. Is there any progress in the natural reproduction of walleyes and lake trout yet? Is the smelt population low enough for the DNR to reintroduce tullibee and start stocking some whitefish in the lake? I hope the lake can naturalize itself enough for the tullibees and whitefish to comeback and for the DNR to not have to stock walleyes and lakers there anymore. Curse them smelt!!!

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I don't care what the DNR report says, the smelt are increasing in Burntside, in fact stunting because of over population. They had some smaller mesh netting last August, and the DNR employee told me they doubled their catch from the previous survey. They are down to the size of fathead chubs on the average, and no indication of natural reproduction of the walleyes or trout. Any whitefish you catch now is around 8+ pounds.

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That is NOT good for business. I take it then when fishing for lakers using frozen smelt is the bait of choice on burntside? I guess there really isn't any way to decrease their population any, is there?

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Smelt work okay, along with ciscos for frozen bait. Rainbow chubs on a jig or plain hook is the live bait choice. For artificial,many use small airplane jigs tipped with a squid tube, tube jigs with the same squid (white), or Slurpies.

The only thing that can get rid of smelt is warm water, not much of that in Burntside. The population may fluctuate slightly, but looks like they're here to stay. I started noticing them in the mid 70's, (they were much larger then) before the population exploded.

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but the trout sure seem to be fat. I wonder if some salmon could help out with them smelt and it would something else to fish for.

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If I remember correctly confused.gif,they considered putting in Atlantic Salmon(?) a few years back, but the life span of the fish wasn't long, cost of introducing them was high, and environmentalists not wanting a non native species caused that to be scrapped. I think putting in 10,000,000 walleye and trout fingerlings a year for the next 10 years would work for me grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif

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I'm thinking stock alot of perch in there. Perch are the most voracious and competitive fish in minnesota. They'll wipe the smelt right out. And once they run out of smelt eggs and fry to eat, they'll thin out too. Besides, it would be a plus for the pike and walleye. And cheaper than stocking walleye and lake trout fingerlings.

And about the atlantic salmon, they wouldn't have much appeal to fisherman I don't think. They put them in lake superior and it didn't workout. Yeah, salmon just don't live long enough. If anything Brown trout because of their reputation as minnow eaters. But I like my perch idea the best.

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Smelt will outcompete perch.

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You got that right, those Perch wouldn't have a chance! frown.gif They'd only last until big walleyes, trout, or northerns had them for lunch, and if any survived to spawn, they would never be able to get one egg to adulthood after the smelt dined on them.

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I guess then we have no choice but to clip the wings of every loon and merganser in the area and keep them on that lake until every smelt has been eaten.

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I don't think they could eat that much, but if they did, they'd be the same size as a Cessna 185 just before they blew up from over eating grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif

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The rumor I had heard was they may be considering stocking coho to knock down the smelt, not Atlantics. I checked with the DNR and they're not planning to stock either of those.

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Hmmm...anyone know where we could kidnap a few harbor seals and let them loose in the lake?

Yeah, salmon just won't work on small bodies of water based on their short life span. I would say the DNR should just stock all the adult stream trout they don't need anymore in burntside, that would help a little.

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I agree that if anything is to be stocked it should be stream trout. I also agree that there seems to be a very strong population of smelt. I'm pretty sure the lakers don't mind all of the smelt. Nobody has asked their opinion on this all yet. Is the problem that the smelt are eating all of the trout and walleye eggs? I know they eat quite a bit but is that the sole reason the lake requires stocking?

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Yes, smelt are voracious, and even the little three-inchers can gobble up laker and walleye and any other kind of fish eggs. Multiply that by the millions that probably inhabit the 7,000-acre-plus lake, and you have one big reason the DNR has had to stock lakers and 'eyes for many years. Same reason there no longer are cisco netted by the DNR on Burntside, and that any whitefish found are really big. Smelt see eggs, smelt see food, smelt gobble eggs, multiply by 20 million.

Another possibility, one that I think contributes to but does not totally explain the need for stocking, is that young-of-the-year smelt eat the same zooplankton that the fry of walleye, laker, ciso and whitefish do. That's a lot of competition for zooplankton in a sterile Canadian shield lake. Burntside certainly has more than its share of soft-bottom fertile bays fed by small rivers and creeks, but overall it's a fairly sterile system compared to, say, neighboring Shagawa or the giant Vermilion. Well, it's not surprising that Shag is a lot more fertile, at that. Ely used Shag as the city's sewer for decades in the early era. Largely because of the flow in from the Burntside River off a clearwater lake and out from the Shagawa River, Shag has done a great job of cleaning itself over time.

Anyway, for Bside, put together the combination of egg predation, competition among fry for zooplankton forage and fairly sterile lake, about you have a recipe that has yielded the conditions we have today. My meanderings almost certainly reflect an imperfect grasp of the system. It's what I've been able to glean from the DNR, current anglers and old-timers over the last four years since I've moved here and adopted Bside as my home lake.

I doubt the lakers mind, and I think the stunted smelt population is probably one reason that small lures often outproduce the big stuff for lakers, especially with eater-sized fish.

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PUT MUSKIES IN THE LAKE! They would thrive with having smelt for forage. It would be awesome to have a fishery with lake trout, walleyes and muskies.

It would be like going to Canada without the hassle. grin.gif

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Steve,

I don't think that the Zooplankton really has anything to do with no reproduction of walleye,trout,whitefish,etc, since not much gets out of the egg stage with the feeding frenzy that exists in the spring and fall for any available spawn. The DNR has found zooplankton in the bellies of smelt they net, but keep in mind that they test net in late July or August (not much spawn around then). Some of their theory comes from tests of smelt in lakes further west and south, an apples to oranges comparison.

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I'm sure the lake trout that make it to a size where they can feed on smelt don't mind them at all!

Once smelt take hold in any body of water they turn the whole system on its ear.

If you want to reduce then numbers of smelt with a fish that won't take the lake over, do it with salmon. Pick any Pacific Salmon because after 4 years they are dead.

Chinooks will get the job done. You can bet your farm that they will thrive in Burntside. Look at what they've done to the smelt in Superior. Now that our DNR has scuttled the Chinook program on Superior you can expect the smelt to come back hard. If my hunch is right the Lake trout will suffer too, thats going to take some time to realize in a lake the size of Superior but it will happen. No I'm not a biologist, but I'm not fresh out school with a degree either, that comes from not years of observation. I'll tell you right now fisheries managers don't have a total handle on whats going on in the lake. You have to learn from historical facts, whats happened in the past and how will that repeat its self. So you want lake trout and walleyes in B-Side, you have to control the smelt first.

I'd pick Chinooks to do that. As I said use them as a tool. They won't take the lake over, they will inhabit the same depths and haunts as smelt and prey upon them year round. If these Naturalist groups knew the treat that smelt are they might warm up to the idea of controlling them.

Just an FYI, Atlantic Salmon unlike any of the Pacific salmon don't die after they 4 year cycle. To say they weren't successful in Superior isn't true. That program was very short lived. I've caught quite a few Atlantics out of Superior. Our DNR would like Superior to return to native species, thats probably the main reason for dropping the Atlantics and Chinooks, yes I know they will tell you otherwise but you have to consider their motive.

Smelt will foil those plans of becoming Native species only and once again the Chinooks will be needed to reduce the smelt. I only hope when that happens they realize that sooner then later.

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Quote:

Steve,

I don't think that the Zooplankton really has anything to do with no reproduction of walleye,trout,whitefish,etc,


I know we disagree on this, Jim, but you won't change my mind. I believe it is a contributing factor, not THE factor.

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Steve,

You and I do disagree on this topic, and I'll tell you why.

I first noticed this smelt invasion in the early to mid 70's when we used to conduct our own cisco/whitfish "survey", if you will. The cisco run was about the 12th to the 17th of November, the 13th to the 15th being the strongest. Over about a 5 year span, our catch kept dwindling, eventually to nothing. During this time, we used one 1/2 inch mesh net, along with the standard cisco 5/8ths inch mesh on the 5 others. We used to get these little barracuda looking things, 6-7 inches long, but only in the small mesh net as they passed through the larger ones. We identified them as smelt, and questioned why they were on the reefs and sand beaches in the fall when they spawned in the spring. Not too hard to figure out that they were eating the eggs of all spawning fish. For the zooplankton theory to work, the smelt, in their beginning stages (and low numbers), would have had to eat all the available ZP back then to prevent the hatching eggs from having any feed, and I can't imagine that happening. The cisco/whitefish/ demise came too fast back then for ZP to be a factor. Barry Bissonett was given a Class C netting license for whitefish approximately during this same period(to help the DNR study what was happening) and if my memory serves me correctly, was pulled after about 3 years. The size of his catch kept increasing year to year, indicating no reproduction of whitefish. I could go on, but there is too much information to keep typing. Stop in, or give me a call and I can tell you about some of my observations when this smelt assault started. Or, then again, we can argue grin.gif

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Steve,

PS-In my ramblings before,I didn't mention that the DNR originally used to stock fry in Burntside and the Walleye population didn't change. When they went to fingerlings, it shot up. The smelt were eating the fry.

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It is true that Chinooks are eating machines and that they'd probably give the smelt a good kick in the butt! The thing about lake superior is...that lake (even though the salmon probably helped) began to naturalize itself, and now that the lakers, whitefish, and herring are back to the way things were I don't think the old smelting days will ever comeback. Besides, there's still ALOT of pink salmon to keep the smelt in check on the northshore! Is burntside the only lake where smelt are a problem? There's smelt in gunflint and grindstone, but tullibees still exist there, as well as with good trout numbers...why is burntside so unlucky? And there must be some monster smallmouths in there I take it?

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I'm sure there are many species that could help in eating the smelt, but will never happen. The environmentalists would never allow a non native species to be stocked in Burntside.

Why they are so thick in Burntside is anyones guess, it may be the "perfect storm."

As far as monster small mouth, there are monster everything in a lake with that much feed, but most people don't have the tackle to pull one in. It'd be great to see the largest walleye, northern, trout, or smallie in Burntside, probably wouldn't dare swim in it anymore! shocked.gif

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I could totally see the problem with introducing a new non native species, which is why I suggested the perch stocking. I still think that would work. Ain't there any rock bass in the lake? You'd think they'd treat the smelt eggs/fry like a buffet.

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There are Rock Bass all over the lake, probably the second largest species, next to the smelt. Forget the perch, there are some in the lake, but don't get too big because they get eaten by bigger stuff. The smelt will never be gone, barring a nuclear explosion! You cannot imagine in your wildest dreams, how many smelt there are in Burntside. 7-10 thousand acres depending what source you read, smelt are stunting because there are too many, no natural reproduction because they eat all the eggs of anything that lays them (except bass and northern)They are not going away, ever!!!! tongue.gif

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