Just last week, I got my very first ever fishing license! I’m pretty excited about it, though I think my husband might be even more excited about it than I am! I wasn’t in any real hurry to go fishing until Hubby went out and brought home his limit of smelt and I had a chance to give them a try. Honestly, I was expecting something gross; I have never really been a huge fan of fish, especially little tiny sardine looking swimmers. After giving them an honest try, I was hooked. Since the smelt are running right now where we live, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it was time to get my fishing license, pack up the car and head out somewhere to try our luck at stocking the freezer with a little food.
My first trip fishing for smelt…
We packed up some snacks and all the gear we’d need to catch some smelt, which I was surprised to learn was basically just some nets and buckets or coolers to put them in. We drove around, found a spot that we thought the smelt would come through and then basically just hung out until it got dark since that’s when the smelt run. We had some fun making a fire, walking along the beach, and making conversation with other folks that came out to fish. Me and the boys practiced a bit with the net too; it took a little time to get used to it – there seems to be a certain motion and rhythm to get into. I definitely need to keep working on it. I have muscles in my arms, shoulders, and back that I’m not sure I was even aware of before this fishing trip. And I could stand to net less rocks too!
The views all around us were amazing from the start of our trip to the moment we got into the car and pulled away. I wish I could share the plethora of photos that I took that night, but I would only drown you in views like this.
In truth, we didn’t score any smelt at the first place we stopped at, though we did have fun with the kids, ran into a friend and soaked up amazing views, like the one above. After Hubby’s luck from the night before seemed to be dying out, we debated on heading home or trying our luck at another spot. I was still pretty motivated to find some smelt – I just couldn’t go home empty handed on the day I got my first fishing license! In the spirit of catching our limit, we headed to another spot and gave it just one more go. And I’m happy to report that the late night was worth it because we scored our limit and brought home enough food for a number of meals! The only downside is that smelt are smaller fish, so gallons of fish meant loads of cleaning. Fortunately, I have a brilliant husband and he taught us all how to clean a smelt in seconds using this quick and easy method I wrote about in a previous post (click link to view tutorial).
Pan Fried Healthy Fried Smelt Recipe: A Tasty Fishing Reward
I love food. I didn’t used to love it so much, but when you’re raising your own or bringing wild food home, there is just something so much more delicious and rewarding about it. With that in mind, I was super excited to come up with a tasty healthy fried smelt recipe that my boys would love. Since frying on the stove stop seemed easiest, I decided to mix up a few basic ingredients to bread the fish before tossing into the oil on the stove. You don’t need many ingredients and there is no worry about exact measurements and if you don’t have something I’ve listed, you can easily swap it out for another you have on hand in your kitchen.
- 1 c extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt (to taste)
- 1/3 c garlic powder
- 1/4 c round black pepper
- 1 1/2 c buckwheat flour
- 3/4 c sorghum flour
- Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl or pie pan.
- Pour olive oil into pan and allow to heat up.
- While oil is heating, take fish and drudge in flour mixture, covering the entire fish, including inside the slit where guts were removed. If fish are not moist, gently coat or spritz with water to allow flour to stick.
- Carefully place the smelt into the hot oil and allow to cook. Fish can be covered completely, if desired, and cooked for approximately 5 minutes, or cooked 2-3 minutes on each side if not covered completely.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove smelt when they are done and allow oil to drain on newspapers or paper towels.
If you don’t have any allergies, you can substitute with your favorite flours already on hand and can even use egg to help bread your fish. We have many food allergies in our family, including gluten, dairy and eggs (to name just a few), and I’ve found that they cook up just fine without the addition of a binder, so I just don’t worry about it. Your cooking time might vary slightly, but you can tell they are done when the bones are soft (you shouldn’t even notice they are there at all) and they begin to brown, like in the photo above. Try to resist the urge to move them around in the pan if you can; the more you move them, the more the fish will flake and break apart. If you keep them intact, they make a fun and easy on-the-go snack or lunch!
How do you cook your smelt? I’d love some more recipe ideas to try!