Smelt’s in Your Mouth



COLUMBIA FALLS — Under April’s “Pink Moon,” Sewell Look and Lewis Emerson and others spent last Thursday night tramping around with flashlights in the puckerbush and local brooks and streams. Their nocturnal foray was part of an annual marathon to catch enough smelts to feed more than 400 people who turned out for the Downeast Salmon Federation’s 2009 Smelt Fry and Potluck Supper.

For years now, Muriel Gay of Jonesboro and helpers have fried the smelts at the annual potluck supper hosted by the Downeast Salmon Federation. —LETITIA BALDWIN
For years now, Muriel Gay of Jonesboro and helpers have fried the smelts at the annual potluck supper hosted by the Downeast Salmon Federation. —LETITIA BALDWIN

COLUMBIA FALLS — Under April’s “Pink Moon,” Sewell Look and Lewis Emerson and others spent last Thursday night tramping around with flashlights in the puckerbush and local brooks and streams. Their nocturnal foray was part of an annual marathon to catch enough smelts to feed more than 400 people who turned out for the Downeast Salmon Federation’s 2009 Smelt Fry and Potluck Supper.

At the Downeast Salmon Federation’s Spring Smelt Fry, people could not get enough of the crisp, lightly fried smelts harvested last week from the Pleasant River in Columbia Falls.—LETITIA BALDWIN
At the Downeast Salmon Federation’s Spring Smelt Fry, people could not get enough of the crisp, lightly fried smelts harvested last week from the Pleasant River in Columbia Falls.—LETITIA BALDWIN
At the Columbia Falls Town Hall Friday evening, Jonesboro farmer Muriel Gay took charge of the area fishermen’s cleaned, freshly harvested catch. She and helpers Evan Emerson, Jane Copp, Sheila Look and Marlene Farnsworth deep-fried the nearly 175 pounds of cleaned fish until they were crisp and golden. The lightly fried smelts were then promptly devoured by the crowd waiting in a line that snaked out of the big green and white tent. On the way to getting their mess of smelts, people helped themselves to a smorgasbord of stews, cole slaws, potato salads, mac ‘n’ cheese and numerous other savory side dishes. The meal was topped off by whoopie pies, iced cakes and other treats prepared by students in Machias High School’s Culinary Arts program.

Preparing fresh smelts at home, Gay first cleans the fish and cuts off the heads. She then dusts them in equal parts of flour and cornmeal before frying them in hot oil. She says freshly picked fiddleheads and boiled potatoes go nicely with fried smelts.

At this year’s Smelt Fry, Gay had a brand new fryolater to work with. Federation member Harry Merritt, who has extensive experience with Southern-style catfish frys, provided plans for assembly of the fryolater built by Bucks Harbor Prison volunteers.

During the supper, the federation auctioned off the winning artwork from its 2009 Student “River/Fishing Theme” contest. A bounce house and live music were also provided as additional entertainment.

All proceeds benefit the federation’s Pleasant River Hatchery at the Wild Salmon Resource Center in Columbia Falls.

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Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]