Smelt run winding down but some anglers hope for second wind

By KBJR News 1

May 25, 2014 Updated May 25, 2014 at 9:56 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)

The heyday of smelting was the 60's and 70's when large populations of the fish drew thousands of people to the North Shore.
Annette Strom of French River remembers those crowds often threw raucous parties.
Smelt numbers are down now and she thinks that has turned smelting back into a sport.

"I think it is more of a sport than a party because you either got to like standing in a river and not getting anything and enjoy being outside or you're somewhere else partying." said Strom.

On Sunday, Strom was at Russ Francisco's Marine General store to get smelting equipment.
That's despite a major decline in the fish's population over the last thirty years.
Smelt are an invasive species that got here in the 40's at the same time sea lamprey demolished the lake trout.
Now, the lampreys are under control and the trout eat the smelt.
Still, many people continue to head out at night for the remaining silvery fish.

"They're light sensitive so during the day, they don't run." said Richard Xiong.

UMD student and avid smelter Richard Xiong says this year's run has been a small one and is running a little later than usual due to the cold winter.
Despite the later start, the end of the run is in sight.

"Even though the smelt run may have slowed down right now, Russ Francisco says just hold on, there's usually a second." said Dave Anderson.

"There's always a little bit of a run after the big rush is over so people can probably still get some smelt but we are getting to the end of it." said Francisco.

Richard Xiong figures there may be a week left for catching the fish.
Skunked or full bucket, he enjoys spending nights with family and friends; just not as wildly as folks may have done 40 years ago.

"It's a fun time and you get to hang out and talk and catch up with each other's life and out talking and see where each other's at and while catching fish if you catch fish. If you don't, you still get to spend time together so you can't go wrong." said Xiong.

In Duluth, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

If you missed out on this year's smelt run or got plain old skunked, places like Lake Superior Fish Company in Superior have them for sale.

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