Spring smelt spawn!

April 19, 2019 at 4:28 pm

By Regional Fisheries Biologist Liz Thorndike Smelt dipping in Maine is a springtime tradition for many, and depending on where you go and the conditions, these smelt runs can be sparse, or if you are lucky, the brook can run black with smelts. One night a few years ago, I captured this video of rainbow smelts spawning, when the brook ran black with smelts. Smelts are widely utilized and highly valued here in Maine. They play a key role as a food source for several fish species (landlocked salmon, lake trout, and brown trout) and are highly sought after not only recreationally for someone’s dinner but as commercial bait. Smelt spawn shortly after ice out when water temperatures are between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit and can be found at night in tributaries or along shorelines depending on suitable habitat. Average age of spawning smelt is typically 1 to 2 years old and females can lay upwards of 50,000 eggs depending on their size. Their eggs are adhesive, clinging to stream vegetation, substrate, or even themselves, and will hatch within 5 to 30 days depending on water temperatures. Hatching at approximately a quarter inch in length and translucent, they’re dependent upon stream flow to carry them to deeper water where they will begin a long journey of avoiding hungry mouths, both fish and humans. Hopefully watching this video will spur you to seek out a smelt run this spring and try and catch your limit for a springtime fish fry. [embed]https://youtu.be/Yk2cQBfI2Gg[/embed]