St. Lawrence species


Mallotus villosus

Type of resource

  • Fish
  • Pelagic fish

Culinary name


Status of the resource

  • Not determined

In season

Fresh from April to July.

SIZE : From 13 cm to 20 cm, up to 25 cm, weight from 40 g to 45 g.

LIFE EXPECTANCY : Up to 5 years.

LIFE CYCLE : Sexual maturity around 3 years.

In spring, the adults form large, tightly packed schools and start their migration to the spawning grounds. The males arrive first on the coast and are then joined by the females.

Between April and July, usually at night, capelin “roll” along beaches and sandy bottoms. To reproduce, the male clings to the female, which contains between 6,000 and 12,000 eggs. Together, they dig the sand and deposit the eggs. Thanks to a sticky protective substance, the eggs remain on the sand until they hatch 15 to 20 days later.

After breeding, most capelin die of exhaustion or injuries sustained during mating.

Cucumber ?

If you smell something like cucumber on the beach, look for the rolling capelin. They give off this sweet scent when they spawn.

Capelin is a small fish with a slender, elongated body. Its head is triangular with a slightly forward jaw. Its back is olive. Its belly is silvery white, and its sides are gray. It has a high dorsal fin.

At spawning time, the male’s fins lengthen and some of its scales grow into hair-like growths.

In the water column, up to 725 m offshore, but on average up to 200 m in deep.

During spawning, capelin migrate close to the coast or to the seabed.

Credit : Jean-Christophe Lemay, photo taken at Baie-Comeau, in 2021.



Capelin is a “forage” species, meaning that it serves as food for numerous marine species. It is therefore of particular importance to the ecosystem.



Northern gannets

MACHINES : Purse seine, weir.

REGULATIONS : This type of fishing mainly targets egg-bearing females. These are luxury products in Japan and other Asian countries. The other capelin catches are used to produce bait, fertilizer, oil, or meal for animal feed.
Mainly practiced on the Lower North Shore and in the fixed-gear fisheries of the St. Lawrence estuary.

Recreational fishing

Don’t know anything about fishing? No problem. You can fish for capelin walking along the shore, without needing a permit. All you need is a landing net. Your hands can even do the trick. Don’t forget to bring a bucket to hold your catch.

Fishing for capelin is a fun activity and a good excuse to gather on the beach, around a fire, waiting for the silvery waves of capelin to arrive.

Capelin is rich in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and potassium. The eggs are rich in protein and vitamin  B12. However, they are not recommended for people with high blood pressure.

Capelin eggs, called masago in Asian cuisine, go well with sushi.

Traditionally, capelin was preserved and eaten salted and dried, as a snack. It can be eaten whole with the head, or filleted. The bones are easy to remove from the cooked flesh. It can also be fried, marinated, or smoked.


  • If you’re going capelin fishing, light a fire and cook it directly on it. You can also roll it in flour and salt before grilling.