The Smelt are Running! The Smelt are Running!

I found Red-Breasted Mergansers at the mouth of the Lester River in Duluth this morning around 7 am. There was a flock of 40+ red and common mergansers feeding on smelt. Further out in the lake, about 200 yards from shore over 60 cormorants were feeding on smelt.

Now some history … for years and years area fishermen get excited when the smelt run. Before the lamprey was controlled, the smelt population mushroomed and one could dip a net and catch hundreds of smelt (the lamprey killed off the predator fish). Read this recent article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the history of smelting.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog post! After five days of strong winds, Lake Superior was finally somewhat calm this morning, which brought out the fish eating ducks. They  discovered the smelt were running up area streams and rivers. The best way to see the birds from close-up is to crawl / butt scoot to the river’s mouth. Don’t stand up! The mergansers will ignore you. In 90 minutes, two different flocks came in and fed for about 20 minutes each time. Very fun to watch. The mergansers ranged between ten and forty yards away from me.

The Smelt Are Running! (red-breasted mergansers)
Y3-M04-Lester-River-Merganser-Morning-02-Red-Breasted-Quacking

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We’re Coming!
Y3-M04-Lester-River-Merganser-Morning-04-Red-Breasted-Flapping Y3-M04-Lester-River-Merganser-Morning-05-Red-Breasted-Splash

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Caught One!
Y3-M04-Lester-River-Merganser-Morning-03-Red-Breasted-Smelt

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I Hear “White-Breasted Mergansers Are Also Invited (common merganser)
Y3-M04-Lester-River-Merganser-Morning-08-White-Breasted-Flapping

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