The Lake Superior smelt
run took its first tentative steps the past few days.
Sivertson Fisheries in
Superior has hauled up a few hundred pounds of the
sleek little fish since Monday.
"It's the early part
of the run,'' Stuart Sivertson said. "It's mostly
males we're seeing now. Today (Wednesday) we got about
When the run is going
well, Sivertson Fisheries has netted as many as 15,000
pounds in a day.
The fish, cigar-sized
or smaller, swim up Lake Superior tributaries and
into the shallows along Minnesota Point to spawn.
Spawning begins in earnest when stream temperatures
remain at least in the mid-40s overnight, said Don
Schreiner, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Lake Superior area fisheries supervisor. Stream temperatures
are well below that now.
Once a rite of spring,
the smelt run has diminished since the heyday of the
late 1970s and early 1980s. The run used to draw people
from all over the Midwest, who used dip-nets or seines
to fill garbage pails and buckets with the delectable
little swimmers. Smelt numbers have dropped significantly,
and the phenomenon doesn't draw nearly the crowds
it once did.
"We'd expect to see what
we've seen the past 10 years or so,'' Schreiner said
of this year's run. "That means a decrease in both
the length of time -- three or four days is what you'd
expect -- and space. You see them in streams from
Duluth up to Gooseberry, maybe a few in the Cascade
(near Lutsen), but nothing to speak of.''
The run used to begin
along Minnesota Point and swing around to Duluth and
then up the North Shore to the Canadian border. It
would last a week and a half.
Smelt harvesters can
still expect to find some smelt along the Minnesota
Point Beach, Schreiner said. Some smelt fishers likely
will be out this weekend along the point and in Duluth-area
streams, he said.
"I'm guessing it will
peak toward the end of next week,'' Sivertson said.
Smelt harvesters are
reminded that they must have fishing licenses to take