TRC and I went out last night with a friend to go smelting. I know most of you read that sentence and assumed we started heating up ore in the hopes of extracting metals, and you’re wondering what in the world I was thinking, getting my son close to so much hot molten metal. Well, no fear. We were fishing with a net, not melting ore.
Smelts are tiny fish, a couple of inches long. In early spring, they swim in schools upstream to spawn. If you stand with a net and shine a flashlight or headlamp into the water, you can see them swim by and swoop ’em up. Your catch size is limited by the quart–2 quarts of smelt per person. That’s a lot of smelt, in case you were wondering. We came home last night with maybe a quart, and it still took forever to clean them all. (Cleaning them involves cutting off the heads and then squeezing the body like a tube of toothpaste to get out the guts. It’s fast, but when you’ve got to do it 200 times, it can get a tad tiresome.) Supposedly the best way to eat them is to bread them and fry them up, tails and all. Denisa’s going to try that.
TRC and I really enjoyed ourselves. The smelt didn’t start coming in earnest until about 9 or 9:30, and since it was about 40 degrees out by 10:30, I had to take my helper home. (Too bad–it sounds like the smelt really started running twenty minutes after I left. Maybe they didn’t like how I smelled.) There were a few other people by us–you smelt on the shore with a long pole with a net at the end, or in the pond if you’ve got waders (then you use a really big net that you set on the pond floor and lift up when the smelt come by). About 9, a group came along that was pretty drunk and obnoxious. I didn’t like that part too much, but them’s the breaks.
Basically, it was a great chance to be outside with a friend and my son, enjoying some non-freezing weather and experiencing something new. I’d like to do it again. TRC had a blast–he used the net all on his own to bag a few smelt, and he thought it was fun to have a headlamp on and be able to check out the brook. Not to mention the fact that there was lots of mud for him to squish through in his boots.
So . . . smelting. Assuming Denisa likes to eat them, I think I’ve found a new yearly tradition (smelt season only lasts a few weeks). That fishing license I bought back in January keeps coming in handy. 🙂