Smelt is a short-lived, rapidly maturing species of fish commercially harvested in Canadian estuaries of the northwestern Atlantic. Unfortunately this fishery is not properly assessed and abundance estimates are unreliable.
Each year, Smelt migrate from the coastal brackish and saltwater habitat to freshwater streams to spawn in late April and May. There is no commercial fishing during the spawning season and fishing is done mainly during late fall and winter.
Fishermen use box traps, bag nets and gillnets to catch Smelt. These fishing methods cause little habitat damage, but bycatch of locally threatened fish like Striped Bass is high. Fishery management throughout most of their range is lacking, but in the Province of Quebec fishery managers are working to assess abundance and set suitable fishing limits.