Posted 05.19.15 / Regional Menus

Smelts are here!

Going smelt fishing is an annual spring tradition and growing up, a rite of passage for our family. Making the trek to Britt with my brothers and parents, we eagerly awaited the rush of fluttering fish as we stood in knee-deep icy cold water with our rubber boots.

A simple scoop of the net would reveal a jackpot –if we were lucky, hundreds of the silver things. Upon our return home Nonno and Nonna would help clean the smelts. If we were old enough, we’d each take turns removing the heads and slitting their underbelly to get rid of the guts.


To eat them we dusted them with flour and fried them…perfection. Even for someone like myself who doesn’t eat much fish, smelts were a highly anticipated treat. And part of the fun is knowing we helped catch and clean them.

It’s that time of year again – smelts are running!. I’ve heard their spawning in our neck of the woods. You do need a fishing license to go smelt fishing and other than that all you really need is a simple scoop net, dip net or seine net and a bucket. The water temperature, length of daylight hours and warmth of the sun encourage the cold-water fish to spawn. Often smelts start running when there is still ice in the water. The best spots to find them are usually along a shallow sandy shore and typically the best time to catch them is in the dark.

While I’ll probably wait a few years to take my own kids who are now two and almost four years old, it’s a tradition that I carry on in another way. Smelts will be featured at the restaurant this week, during lunches and in our tasting menu!