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Bill's Pan-Fried Smelt

I had never even heard of smelt until Bill and I visited his parents, and his mother served smelt for dinner with creamed asparagus on toast.

 What a meal!!!

Now after living here many years, we still like fried smelt as much as ever. When my parents visited us from Louisville, Bill fried smelt on the grill for them and then they fell for it hook, line and sinker too!

Of course, smelt always starts the eternal argument ~ how many will be swiped through corn meal and how many through flour before frying.  It’s a never-ending battle with uneven results for some as Bubba and I hurry to hide the flour before Bill finds it and Matt and Kathy liking both ways.

 Smelt net fishing

Smelt resembles salmon in appearance but is much smaller, generally around 7” and is fished primarily around the Great Lakes.  It is one of the few fish that fishermen are allowed to net.  They also provide food for the growing trout and salmon populations in Lake Michigan

Smelt is a very delicate fish and requires great care from the time of netting to cleaning them before frying.  Depending upon where you purchase them, some additional cleaning may be necessary.  If that is needed we use a soft tootbrush.

The smelt requires nothing but salt and pepper; no batter, no tartar sauce here.  There’s nothing quite like eating them, tail and all, even as a delicious finger food if you don’t have time to pick up a fork! 

 With corn meal

With flour

Bill’s Pan-Fried Smelt

Salt and pepper, to taste
Corn meal

Carefully clean the smelt.
Melt Crisco in skillet, about 1” deep to cover fish, heat to 375 degrees.
Dip smelt in corn meal or flour.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Fry in hot grease.
Turn, continue frying for a total time of about 2-4 minutes until golden. 

Allow approximately 1/3 pound smelt per person.

Spring is in the air and the smelt are in the water awaiting your skillet.  I hope you try this and fall for it hook, line and sinker also!


  1. Not a fish fan here but I'm sure they are good! They sure look pretty swimming in the oil!

  2. I learn something new everyday. I had no idea you could net smelt and fry it up. I have never tasted smelt. However, fried up with a salt and pepper sounds really good.

  3. I haven't had smelt in years. My grandmother used to prepare them and I did love them! Nice photos.

  4. This is new to me!!! Smelt looks really good.

  5. I'm with the others, I have never had smelt, but I must say, you make it look VERY appetizing! I now MUST try it with your recipe! Thanks!

  6. My hubbys family always goes smelting but I have yet to try smelt-maybe I'll have to give it a try;)

  7. Debbi Smith, they are pretty good and pretty hot in that oil!

    Velva, wish I could offer you some, they're great!

    Cathy, thanks! Love the memories some food recalls!

    Erica, I understand that! Thanks for stopping by!

    Anything Fits a Naked Man, hope you can find some to try and then know how delicious they are!

    Holly, oh my gosh! You've got it made, go for it!

  8. this brings back memories... my mom used to serve fried smelt.. LOVE them!

  9. My mouth is watering, this looks just delicious. I am fond of all food but fish is still my favourite. Diane

  10. My mouth is watering. I love all food but fish is my favourite. Diane

  11. There is simply no better reason to marry someone. Seriously. Lovely recipe!

  12. Karen, isn't it great the way some foods bring back great memories! I'm sure your mom fried them up perfectly!

    Food, Fun and Life in the Charente, thanks! We love fish here also and Bill does a great job of smelt on the grill.

    redmenace, LOL! You're right! It's one of the best reasons I can think of! ;)


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