Minnesota: whatever happened to freshly harvested smelt from the North Shore
There are still Smelt but not as many as pre-60s in the Great Lakes. Alewives seem to have displaced them after a probable ballast discharge at some time then, but they were still numerous. Many of you will recall the banks of Alewives inshore in the spring that would die and band the shorelines. They were undesirable (unlike Smelt, which are also an invasive species) so East Coast Salmon were introduced to control them.
The ice will be out soon and a scant few Smelt will be had locally by real diehards here.
We still have them in supermarkets here from Olmstead's, the Canadian fishery out of Wheately Ontario owned by H.J. Heinz.
I dont know why, but AZGrandpa's answer sounded real good. Will have to ask my hubby when he gets home why. But I do remember going to the store not to far back when they had it on sale and my hubby bought 10 packs. Now I always associated the word SMELT with SMELL. I dont know why, but, not anymore. Yummy Yum. and that is frozen smelt, not fresh, but I am sure fresh is best. I do want to try fresh, but not in any stores here in IND. I fixed it the next 2 nites after he left for his truck driving job out of town.
I'll try to provide an answer, but you may want to contact the MN DNR for the "official" explanation.
Smelt were everywhere in the Great lakes back in the 60's and 70's. While in grad school in Chicago in the late 7o's. I used to join undreds along the shore of Lake Michigan, and net the little creatures.
I think that the introduction of Salmon in the 60's marked the end of the smelt population as we used to know it. Smelt were the perfect food for the salmon, and the salmon population exploded while the smelt population shrank drastically (the law of unintended consequences).
Every smalltown in MN used to have a smelt feed or two every year sponsored by local Sportsman's/Conservation Clubs. They were a real community affair enlisting every group in town to help out. Great fun.
Now, I understand that a few commercial fishermen still net smelt out in Lk Superior, but it's tough way to make a buck. I recall seeing smelt in Byerly's a few years back, don't know if they still can obtain them or not. Not in MN much anymore to get the latest info.