There are about half as many smelt fishermen in Summerside, P.E.I., this year as is normal and experts are blaming the weather.

Bobby MacInnis of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said they had noticed the decline.

"In a good year or normal year we probably see between 250 and 300 smelt shacks on the ice [in P.E.I.] This year we're probably looking at most, 75 to 100," he said.

Elmer Williams has been ice fishing on Summerside Harbour for 17 years. He said this season there are far fewer smelt shacks than usual.

"Part of it was the lateness. People didn't think the season was going to be worthwhile," he said.

"Twenty years ago when I started fishing, we could be out there the first part of December. Lately it's been the 10th or 12th of January and this year we just didn't have the ice."

Williams said even those who do have shacks find it hard to reach them because of all the snow.

"There are tons of little challenges. Nothing we haven't faced before, but this year the snow is ridiculous. There are shacks out there that there's no tracks for the last two weeks. It's just crazy, really."

Williams said fewer fishermen out on the ice means it will be harder for Islanders to get their first feed of smelts.