It’s official. The smelt run has begun in the Duluth-Superior area.
“There has been some smelt activity, both in the rivers and on the beach at Park Point,” said Josh Blankenheim, fisheries specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at French River.
Smelt are the slender silver fish that swim up streams and into the shallows along Minnesota Point to spawn. The smelt run isn’t as strong as it was at its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, but lots of people like to catch enough of the tasty fish for a few meals.
Bob Carson and his wife, Toy, were at the beach on Park Point Wednesday and Thursday nights and took home a lot of smelt, Bob Carson said.
“Last night (Thursday) was really good,” he said. “And Wednesday night was good, too. That night, it was just my wife, myself and four other people. (Thursday) night, you couldn’t even move.”
The run is much later than usual this year due to the late ice-out and cold water temperatures.
“Usually we’d be done by the regular fishing opener,” Carson said.
Minnesota’s fishing opener was May 10.
On Park Point, smelters use long seines (no longer than 25 feet and no deeper than 4 feet) to net smelt just offshore. On North Shore streams, smelters use dip nets with long handles to catch the fish just inside river mouths.
The Park Point beach has been more productive than rivers, Blankenheim said. Smelting is typically done during the evenings.
Smelters are reminded they need Minnesota fishing licenses to catch smelt. Some North Shore streams are closed to smelt fishing. Consult the Minnesota fishing regulations for a list of those streams.