The rich smelt

Accessibility and chances to catch it

Also known as

Rainbow smelt

Where to find it

  • St. Lawrence River and estuaries, close to the coasts
  • River mouths (winter)

Why anglers like it

  • It has a delicious, sharp-flavored and high-protein white meat.
  • It is enjoyable to fish during ice fishing season.
  • It is accessible to fish from a dock during the summer.
  • It is easy to bait and bites often, which is ideal for fishing with children.

Pro tips and tricks

  • Line fishing in shallow water during winter.
  • Bait: marine worms, meat pieces (liver, heart, etc.)
  • Smelt is sensitive to light and appears to stay in the depths of a body of water during the day.
  • People who fish from a wharf use an ultra-sensitive rod to feel the strike of small fish.

How to recognize it

  • Average length: usually less than 20 cm.
  • It is a long, silvery fish with a light green back and iridescent sides.
  • Its head is slender, its mouth large and its teeth prominent.
  • Consult the detailed fact sheet (in French only).

Good to know

  • Required licence : Sport fishing (except Atlantic salmon)
  • No licence is required for Québec residents fishing in zone 21 (St. Lawrence River).
  • Quota: 60 or 120, depending on your fishing zone and localization.
  • The smelt population in the south of the St. Lawrence estuary has been designated a vulnerable species (in French only) many years ago.