Now is the mid-section of the annual spring Smelt run in Lake Ontario. Where anglers in the past would literally be shoulder to shoulder scooping up Smelt using dip nets and bright light, due to Covid many shoreline areas have been closed to discourage big masses of anglers fishing close to each other.
Smelt fishing is really a Great Lakes tradition and before the 90’s it would be common for Smelt fishermen to go home with bushels of fresh Smelt. Today for angers that can get out, if they fill a 5 gal pail they are doing great. The stocker Salmon & Trout have really decreased the Smelt population in Lake Ontario. Combining the fact there there is less Smelt to be caught and few good areas to target them is making this cultural fishery slowly dwindle.
Spawning Smelt are attracted to moving water and will enter the lower sections of most Lake Ontario tributaries to look for gravelly areas to spawn. Others spawn in big rivers like the Niagara and others along the Lake Ontario beaches and gravelly shorelines.
Six foot by six foot dipnets are the standard way to catch them or by wading and using long-handled dipnets to scoop them out of shallower areas.
Fresh caught smelt are delicious deep-fried!