The smelt are running in lakes Michigan and Huron, up the various rivers and streams that empty into those lakes. In another week or two, they will be running in Lake Superior. As that lake is significantly colder, the smelt always run about two weeks later than in the other two.
One year, my dad bined the cleaned smelt in a mixture of salt water and brown sugar. Then he smoked them with hickory. Now I don't know how many of you have eaten smelt, but they are small, like sardines. After cleaning and cutting the heads off, you just cook them and munch 'em like french fries, bones and all. I love them dipped in corn meal, or flour, and pan fried with a bit of salt 'till golden brown. Serve with cocktail sauce. Yum. But I gotta say, those smoke smelt were incredible.
Sadly, the smelt don't run as thickly as they used to back in the 60's and 70's. People abused the resource and comercial fishing has cut the numbers. They used to run so thick that it seemed you could walk accross the streams on their backs. Now it takes hours to fill a 5 gallon bucket. It used to take just one dip of the smelt net.
A favorite use by many was to fill up garbage cans full and till them into home veggie gardens as fertilizer. Some people filled the box of their pickup trucks. My dad and I only took a 5 gallon bucket's worth, enough for a couple of smelt feeds.
As a species, we are just too greedy for our own good. I understand that in Washington state, the smelt fishing has been banned as they are becoming endangered. I think maybe we should do that in the Great Lakes as well.
Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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