Originally Posted by CWS4322
The ones we ate were freshwater. As I understand it, there are fresh- and saltwater smelt. The ones we harvested came from Lake Superior, or thereabouts. They were very good as appetizers.
We always got ors as they ran into streams either from Lake Huron, or Lake Superior, usuall Lake Superior.
The variety that lives in the great lakes region are a freshwater species called Rainbow Smelt. And yes, they are deliscious. The fish are small enough, that you eat them with the bones. The fish-heads are removed, and the fish are cleaned. Usual ways of preperation are to dredge in corn meal or flour, season with salt, and fry in a couple inches of hot oil. Usually there is nothing but the fish except for something to drink, which in our house was always milk. We all loved our smelt.
Sadly, smelt are not indigenous to the Great Lakes. They were planted as a foodfish for larger fish, such as Lake Trout, and Pike. From the time I was born, in 1855, until about 1974, the smelt ran so thick, that if you caught them in a run, you could practically walk accross the stream on their backs. If you didn' catch the run, you simply walked the stream in the daytime, and dipped the holes. In no time, you could fill a 5-gallon bucket.
Now, it takes hours of dipping, and you have to be there on the right night, when they are running. It takes a lot of dipping to get 5 gallons worth now.
I asked a local biologist about the decrease in smelt numbers. He said that there is more pressure on the smelt than when I was young. There are many more salmon, steelhead, and other predatory fish in the Great Lakes than before. Couple that with comercial fishing boats that net and sell them, and the invasive cormorants, and you can easily see why the numbers are down. In addition, since this wasn't there original biological home, they just may have peaked until the local eco-systems have adapted to their presence. He believes the smelt with never be found in the numbers that they were found in their heyday. So sad, but in actuality, better probably for the environment.
Seeeeeeya; Chief Longwind of the North