Oh yes....it is happy times when the smelt are running. Even Lewis and Clark were able to enjoy them.
Old timers enjoyed them fresh, smoked and pickled.
Modern timers like them for bait.
They are a kind of fish you either enjoy or can't stand. There is no in between.
Their life cycle is still a mystery.
Despite the climate change debates, the last two years, have seen huge smelt returns to the Columbia River and tributaries. Last year, a few even managed to get above Bonneville Dam which makes one wonder how far their spawning grounds went, before the dams.
In the late 1800's the smelt did a thirty year disappearing act. New comers along the lower Columbia River tributaries had no idea what the winter invasion of these little spawned out, dead fish lining the banks was related to. Native Americans and the early settlers recognized them.
If you like them, the first fresh meal of the year is like heaven and you will often hear the comment, "I wish "dad" or "uncle" or "grandma" was still around to enjoy these.
L.E. on 20th March 2015 @ 7:47am
Do you remove the gut? Fry, boil, freeze?Neighbor once gave me a 5 gal bucket of them and I used them under my spring garden plantings for fertilizer.
nels on 20th March 2015 @ 12:12pm
Growing up we often had fried smelt from the Sandy River.
Jeffrey Bryant on 20th March 2015 @ 3:54pm
Humm ....Wondering if they used the coffee pot with the holes in it to catch 'm ?
The Cigars might just taste the better I'd a reckon.
Steve r on 20th March 2015 @ 8:59pm
The smelt fishing (dipping) at Tanner Creek was great. Each kid had a gunny sack that was filled to his caring capacity and then hauled up to the cars on the Old Highway. When we got Mother would quickly fry them for dinner that night. The balance was taken to garden -- one fish in each hill of corn -- "old Indian trick".
Bill Pattison on 21st March 2015 @ 1:04pm
When I was little we went to the Sandy River for a day of dip netting, playing around and being with family friends. My husband and I went smelting over on the Cowlitz one year, many years ago.
Charlott on 23rd March 2015 @ 7:03am
Interesting, Bill P about Tanner Creek. I mentioned that to my husband and he said he had heard of them running up Tanner Creek on a good year.
Nels, in answer to your question about cleaning, there are actually some who prefer their smelt uncleaned and even prefer the females full of "cream of wheat" eggs. Yuk!
They are easy to clean. With a pair of scissors, you snip off the head, slit down the belly and with your thumb you can scrape out the minimal amount of gut. Rinse them, dip in flour and fry in oil. They cook quickly and they make your house stink for the rest of the day.
As for putting in the garden, they always seems to take forever to rot and usually some animal or the dogs dig them up.
Among Natives, the smelt were famous for their oil. They were kept in a basket and allowed to ferment. The oil was skimmed off and used for trading. Alexander McKenzie, who traveled overland to the Pacific Ocean before Lewis and Clark, (1793), followed the "Grease Trail" across British Columbia. It was the trail used by Natives from the coast to the interior. Supposedly they carried the ocean smelt grease along this trail.
We know salmon are oily, but there must have been something better about the "smelt grease".
L.E. on 23rd March 2015 @ 9:39am