Smelt Season (and smelt frying!)

Smelt season is here! Wikipedia’s smelt entry explains:

Smelts are a family, Osmeridae, of small fish found in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They are common in the North American Great Lakes, and in the lakes and seas of the northern part of Europe, and run in large schools along the coastline during their spring migration to their spawning streams.

It is one of the few fish that sportsmen are allowed to net, using dip nets, either along the coastline or in the streams. Some sportsmen also ice fish for smelt. Smelt are often fried and eaten whole.

In Michigan and other Great Lake states of USA, “smelt dipping” is a common group sport in the early spring months (when the stream water reaches approximately 4°C, 40-42f). Fish are spotted using a flashlight / headlamp (the best smelt dipping is in the middle of the night from 10:00pm – 2:00am) and scooped out of the water using a dip net made of nylon or metal mesh. The smelt are cleaned by removing the head and the entrails. Fins, scales, and bones of all but the largest of smelts are cooked without removal.

Never had smelt? You might want to head over to the 49th Annual Smelt Dinner next Friday (Apr 3) from 3-8 PM or until the smelt runs out! It takes place at the cedar Town Hall and is sponsored by the Cedar Rod and Gun Club.

My favorite smelt have always been at the Blue Bird and for dipping, Fishtown as a kid and Shalda Creek now – anyone have anything to add? Post it in the comments!

Photo: Smelt dipping near Houghton, MI April 2006

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