This community is combating an invasive species by eating them

Rainbow smelt

This article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

How do you solve a problem like invasives? You eat them. Well, first you catch them.

This was the logic behind last spring’s rainbow-smelt harvest on Golden Lake, Ont. Glenn Bingham, the lake steward for the Golden Lake Property Owners Association, pitched the idea. The lake’s invasive rainbow-smelt population had been decimating native fish species, including the once numerous walleye. “I wanted to change the status quo,” he says. So, for seven nights last April, a team of 12 hip-waders-wearing, flashlight-carrying volunteers caught bucket after bucket of rainbow smelts: 153,600 fish in total.

“It was a simple concept,” says Bingham. “If man can introduce a species, why can’t man remove it?”

And why can’t man—and woman—then eat it or use it to catch even more fish? (Some volunteers dined on the smelts; others used them as bait.) The harvest was an attention-grabber among area cottagers, and the association plans to expand the cull into a larger event and an official community fish fry this June.

“There’s such an interest now,” says Bingham. “I can’t even go into the gro- cery store without people asking questions about it!”