Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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Smelt Rainbow

Scientific Name: Osmerus mordax

Habitats: Great Lake Huron, Great Lake Michigan, Great Lake Superior

Edibility Score:
3.0/5

Toxicity Level: Medium

State Recommended Max Servings Per Month: 1

Rainbow Smelt

Osmerus mordax – scientific name

Smelts (Osmeridae) Family

During their spawning period in April, people typically use dip-nets to capture them from streams and the Great Lakes.
Smelt populations in the Great Lakes are no longer as large as they once were and smelt dipping has suffered accordingly. The best smelt dipping these days is in Upper Peninsula streams.

Rainbow smelt are native to the Atlantic Coast and Lake Champlain in Canada. Rainbow smelt are invasive to the Great Lakes watershed through an introduction of eggs to Crystal Lake in Michigan in 1912. This lake drains into Lake Michigan, and the rainbow smelt escaped into Lake Michigan and spread quickly throughout the Great Lakes and their tributaries.

Rainbow Smelt may be confused with fish in the minnow family Lake Whitefish, and Cisco.
Whitefish and Cisco, Unlike Rainbow Smelt fish in the minnow family, do not have an adipose fin, nor large teeth.
Lake Whitefish and Cisco are silvery fish with an adipose fin, much like a Rainbow Smelt, but their bodies are deeper than the Rainbow Smelt and they do not have teeth on the tongue and roof of the mouth.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I remember big populations of smelt dipping fishermen on the jetties drinking all night and fishing for smelt.  It was a custom to bite the head of the first smelt you caught, but I always felt it was something they only did to new comers.

 

Fishing Season

Season:

Northern Wisconsin - Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Cisco, Lake Whitefish, Round Whitefish, Smelt, Sunfishes, White Bass, Yellow Perch & Other Species
All boundary waters Open All Year

Smelt No size limit 2 gallons Harvest Per day.  Open All Year
Consult Net Gear Regulations as Net Gear and some waters are regulated.

LINK TO WISCONSIN REGULATIONS

Upper Peninsula of Michigan - Channel Catfish, Flathead Catfish, Cisco, Lake Whitefish, Round Whitefish, Smelt, Sunfishes, White Bass, Yellow Perch & Other Species
All boundary waters Open All Year
Smelt No size limit 2 gallons Harvest Per day.  Open All Year
Consult Net Gear Regulations as Net Gear and some waters are regulated.

LINK TO MICHIGAN REGULATIONS

WI Fishing Hook & Line Record

Wisconsin Record Rainbow Smelt.

Weight - 5.5 oz. Length 11.5 Inches.

Date - 02/03/2022

Location Green Bay Door County.

Outlying waters means Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Sawyer's Harbor and the Fox River from its mouth up to the dam at De Pere.

Wisconsin Hook and Line Records for Fishing

MI Fishing Hook & Line Record

Michigan Record Smelt.

Weight - Unknown Length 12 Inches.

Date - 1996

Type - Dip Net

Location Houghton Houghton County.

Michigan Hook and Line Records for Fishing
DNR Master Angler Michigan.gov Program and Map

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