It’s late February and smelt are in season! My local grocery sells them through March and they are getting them out of Canada. They claim that these have not been frozen. I have been getting some weekly and they always smell and taste very fresh. Smelt are a very underrated and under utilized food source. Smelt are abundant and low in toxins. In some areas of the Great Lakes they have become invasive. Being fatty and small, smelt make a nice finger food. They are easy to cook and just as nutritious as other small fish like sardines and anchovies. Although they come from the grocery with the heads off, it is even better to leave the heads on if you catch them yourself or get them heads on. Eating the entire fish (aka, nose to tail) provides the most nutrition.
I used to catch the Pacific version when I lived in the Northwest US. We would net a large bucket full and freeze them and have a several months supply. My favorite cooking method is to cold smoke them first with a smoking tube, then lightly dust with seasoned sorghum flour and pan fry in avocado oil. Here is my quick and easy method. The smoking step is of course optional.