(Wild-caught from Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie)
Rainbow smelt isn't native to the Great Lakes and its presence impacts the health and abundance of native species. The removal of rainbow smelt is part of a plan to restore the natural communities of the Great Lakes.
American Smelt, Leefish, Freshwater Smelt, Frost Fish
Rainbow smelt was introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1930s and quickly grew in abundance. Ultimately, this non-native fish had disruptive impacts on the native ecosystem - aggressively competing with lake herring and other deepwater fishes that had already declined in numbers as a result of overfishing and pollution.
At one time, rainbow smelt was commercially fished in all the Great Lakes, but fisheries now only occur in Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. The Lake Erie fishery is the largest.
Because it is not native to the Great Lakes and could impede the recovery of native species, rainbow smelt is considered an undesirable species. The removal of rainbow smelt is seen as a part of the restructuring of Great Lakes communities, restoring the native predator-prey balance to sustainable, self regulating levels.