Smelt: It’s What’s for Breakfast

Today’s post comes from marine extension associate Chris Bartlett. Chris is based in Eastport, and for the past few years he helped monitor populations of rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), which is considered a species of special concern. As a result, Chris has learned a lot about these little fish. 

I was driving home from work on Wednesday evening when I saw a pickup truck parked beside one of my favorite smelt brooks. I found two men laughing as they dip-netted one smelt after another where the stream meets the sea. I joined in the fun and caught many smelt as twilight turned to night.

Rainbow smelt live most of their lives in the ocean and swim up coastal freshwater streams to spawn during spring months. The fish typically move upstream under the cover of darkness when the tide is rising. Recreational harvesters are allowed to keep two quarts of smelt per day. The smelt that I caught were very tasty, as these photos will attest.

fried smelts
smelt bones left after a meal

Check out the Maine Department of Marine Resources website for information on rainbow smelt.