Smelt Fishing. Most of the world has no clue what this is. If you’ve lived in Northern Minnesota or Wisconsin, however, you know exactly what it is. It’s a springtime ritual which my father always looked forward to participating in.
Basically, you stand on the shore of Lake Superior with a net and a trash can. Groups of small fish called “smelt” swim by. As they do, you scoop up as many as possible with your net and dump them in the trash can. Repeat the process until your trash can(s) are full. Then, go home.
Problem was, you always got way too many smelt and they didn’t taste very good. In our family, we’d haul all the smelt back to our house in the Twin Cities. Which completely filled up our extra freezer. The smelt would then remain untouched for a year. At which time they were thrown out in order to make room for the newly-arrived fish from the current smelting season. This never made sense to me. Why would a grown man take hard-earned vacation time from his job to drive 400 miles, stand out in the cold, and catch fish that he would never eat? My mother HATED the entire smelting experience! But it made my father happy, so it remained an annual springtime ritual for the Durigan family.
Here we are in 1971. I was 7 years old. It was unseasonably warm that year, which is probably the reason why I was smiling!