The Running of the Rainbow Smelt

Rainbow Smelt “run” on Golden Lake and the Bonnechere River for a short period in the early spring. We have an overabundance of them and their numbers are creating problems for other fish species in the lake. Members and friends of the GLPOA Fish Committee come out in force during the run to catch as many smelt as they can, to help curb their numbers and support the survival and diversity of other fish species in the lake. The window of opportunity for catching the smelt as they travel up the creeks and rivers to spawn, is very short; typically, only 4 to 7 days in the spring. Catching the smelt is done late at night, making it even more challenging.

We clean a fair number of them and immediately freeze them for later consumption at our annual GLPOA Smelt Fry, usually in June. The smelt run has become quite popular over the years with harvesters travelling from throughout Renfrew County, the Ottawa area and southern Ontario. The GLPOA Fish Committee began documenting the number of smelt harvested in 2016 and since then a conservative estimate of the number of smelt harvested is just short of 900,000. Rainbow Smelt are classed as a game/sport fish and as such are subject to fishing regulations including an open season and a requirement that as a game fish they cannot be wasted or allowed to spoil.

Cleaning the smelt for the annual GLPOA Smelt Fry