Niagara River, ON Smelt TV show.

Posted on April 17th, 2012

[nggallery id=692]After shooting TV shows for the last 27-yrs., I thought it was time to feature one of the classic types of fishing that is really a Canadian tradition and that’s fishing the smelt run.  If you have checked my blog, I have been monitoring the smelt fishing in the Lower Niagara River, ON for the last couple of weeks.  The smelt have been running there for the last month, and I chose last night to shoot a TV show featureing all the different  nationalities that take advantage of this great fishing occurance and to show viewers the different netting techniques that anglers use to catch them.  My wife Barbara, our pup Mulligan and I enjoyed several great hours of smelt fishing!

We arrived on location at about 2pm and there were already several smelt fishermen staking out their night-time spots.  By 7pm, there were nearly a hundered people on the river equipped with everything from small minnow dip nets with extra-long handles,  to sophisticated pole/dolly/tripod 6′ x 6′ dip net set-ups, all trying to catch a bucketful of tasty smelt.  Joe Shugan, Doug Volpel and Jeff Devisser made up our camera crew and there were several people on-hand to help us out as well, including Kris & Ashley.  Kris is a regular steelhead fisherman at the Queenston, ON boat launch area who does very well.

Besides talking to lot’s of fishermen and giving viewers excellent tips on fishing smelt, we also finished the evening by frying up some fresh smelt, which was enjoyed by many of the fishermen.

For those of you who are not familiar with smelt, they are an “anadromus” fish that is native to North America’s Atlantic Coast.  They live in saltwater and run up fresh water tributaries to spawn, then they return to saltwater.  In the 1900’s smelt were introduced into the Great Lakes and ever since than anglers have been enjoying catching and eating these plentiful and tasty fish.  Smelt in the Great Lakes start running in early spring when water temperatures near 8C.  I normally look at trees in the spring and as soon as their buds start to open I know the smelt are running.  The Great Lakes smelt continue spawning for about 1-month.  Male smelt can spawn up to 8-nights in a row, while female smelt only spawn up to 4-nights in a row and than both sexes make their way back to deep water.  Smelt like to spawn in current areas as small as tiny creeks, or as large as the Niagara River.  Many smelt also spawn along gravelly lake shorelines.  The average female smelt lays 6,000-8,000 eggs that catch in 30-days.

There is no limit on smelt in Ontario, but you do need to have an Ontario Sportfishing Licence to catch them.  Even though smelt can be caugth by angling (hook & line), the standard way to catch them when they are making their spawning run is to use either a circular or square dip net.  Nets can only be a maxium of 6′ in diameter (circular dip net), or 6′ long in the case of a square net.  You can use lights to spot the smelt and we were fortunate to use a Yamaha 2000 wt generator.

If you enjoy eating fish and you have not tried smelt, you should take adantage of this springs smelt run which will continue until the second week in May.  If you don’t fish, but you are interested in finding out how tasty these fish are there is a an Annual Smelt Festival that takes place each spring at Art Part, Lewiston, NY on the Lower Niagara River.  This year the event will be held on May 4, 2012.  Each year their local sportsman club nets about 350 lbs., they clean them and fry them up for people to enjoy free!!  There is also Jazz music and a variety of other foods and drinks available.  This is a very popular upper NY comunity event.  Hope you get out to enjoy it.

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