• Smelt catch breaking waves onto the beach on incoming tides to spawn. They are often caught in several successive, mild rolling waves using A-frame surf dip nets or Hawaiian throw nets.
  • Watch for bird and sealion activity to indicate location of smelt schools.
  • Spawning smelt prefer coarse, black sand beaches.


Work either of the following nets into the waves to catch smelt:

  • A-frame nets, i.e. nets on rigid triangular frames of aluminum or wood (about $100-125)
  • Throw net comprised of a circular net with lead weights around the perimeter and a draw string to close the net around your catch

Other recommended equipment:

  • Wet suits or waders
  • Fish buckets

Best Bets

Best locations for smelt fishing include:    Manchester Beach near Point Arena

  • Fort Bragg/MacKerricher State Beach
  • Ten Mile River Beach at Inglenook
  • Wages Creek Beach at Westport
  • Juan Creek Beach at Leggett