I Smelt Up the House – Once

Fixing smelt 07-07-2023

When I was wandering around the freezer section in Schnucks the other night looking for something new to fix, I saw a frozen package of smelt that screamed that it was fresh caught and had a fresh taste.

I walked on.

On my next pass, I stopped a couple on the other side of the freezer case and asked if they had ever had smelt. The man said he had. He looked at the woman who was with him, and she nodded her head in the affirmative.

I should have asked if they had ever had it twice.

I solicited advice

Fixing smelt 07-07-2023

Wife Lila penned a query: “Publix has a special cooler for fish bait and the like. Are you sure you stopped at the right cooler?!?”

Foodie Jan Norris posted the question to her hive, which came back with some recipes. 

I followed one that told me to run cold water over the frozen fish just long enough to get the ice crystals off them, then roll them in a flour / salt / pepper concoction.

Didn’t want to risk it all at once

Fixing smelt 07-07-2023

I put a quarter of the quarter of the smelt I had extracted from the package into my air fryer basket.

(I didn’t want to take a chance on getting the whole batch wrong.)

I set the temp and timer

Fixing smelt 07-07-2023

I followed the directions to set the time and temp for 390 degrees and 10 minutes.

When I opened the pot, the fishies weren’t as crispy as I had hoped, so I gave them another four minutes.

I polished off that batch without being impressed.

I raised the temp to 400 and increased the time to 14 minutes for Batch Two. It was better, but I’d have been better off to have thrown them on my Blackstone griddle sans breading.

(Actually, I’d have been better off to have fed them to Phoebe the Bleeping Cat.)

The In-Laws get a gift

I called sister-in-law Marty. “I understand you’re going camping and fishing this weekend. I’m going to gift you something that might be an experiment, or it might be bait for Don.”

I presented them with a vacuum-sealed bag of what looked all the world like a bunch of headless minnows.

For the record, the fish lived up to their name: they smelt up my kitchen. They had a long lifespan, too. I had them for breakfast, and am still belching them 12 hours later.



5 Replies to “I Smelt Up the House – Once”

  1. I live in Washington state now, born in Cape. Out here the Smelt are sort of kinda a delicacy. The are a spawning fish and there is only a season to catch them every few years. They may or may not come in numbers enough that Fish and Game authorities allow a short season. But when they do its Katy bar the door! You do not fish for them with normal fishing gear unless you include a bucket and a big net on a pole in the tackle category.
    When the “run ” is on you simply wade out a few feet and dip you net and pull up anywhere from a few to as much as 100 of the little oily fish. The last time I went after them the allowed limit was 24 pounds a day.
    As far as cooking goes I used to deep from them but of course my heart and my doctor won’t allow that any longer. If you do get in on a good run and limit out you had better plan a day of cleaning. Can’t say they were ever on top of my list…but I did find that if I bury them in the garden they made the Lilacs bloom beautifully.

  2. Sorry . I meant to say the limit was 25 pounds and I would deep fry them. Did I mention oily and greasey?

  3. I live near Detroit. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s we would go to Point Pelee, on Lake Erie in Ontario, when the smelt were “running”, always at night. When they were at their peak one might use a seine net and fill a garbage can in two scoops. Other night they weren’t as plentiful. Next day was cleaning and then a neighborhood fish fry.

  4. There is a little ditty. ” Of all the smelts I ever smelt, I never smelt a smelt like that smelt smelt .” After my graduation from Cape Central in 53 my family moved to the Detroit area where I lived for a couple years before leaving for college in Indiana. Although did no fishing myself I do remember the annual smelt run as it was described by Ron Smith and there were always enthusiastic fishermen willing to share their catch. I do remember going to Point Pelee, the southern most beach on mainland Canada, but not to fish but for some brisk sailing.

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