General Information

Smelt is a small delicate fish that resembles trout and, like its cousin the capelan, is becoming a product of more commercial interest. It is a transparent green, olive to bottle green on the back, with paler sides and a silvery belly with dark speckling. 

This species is anadromous. The landlocked form, called the rainbow smelt, is also found in Canada.    

When caught, smelt are only 12-20 cm long (specimens 2-3 years old). 

Main fishing season: October and November in coastal waters and waterways from Hamilton Inlet to Virginia. It is fished mostly with capture ponds, bag nets or gill nets. In the Charlevoix region, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, the locals fish for smelt from the docks to make a typical regional recipe: smelt pie.

Commercial use: fresh or frozen

Culinary file

  • Small smelt can be used in fritters or sautéed in butter
  • stuffed with a mixture of mayonnaise, cream, bread crumbs and butter
  • with garlic: dip each fillet into melted garlic butter; dip in bread crumbs; grill in the oven; sprinkle with lemon juice


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