Growing up I remember my Dad and some friends heading to Port Washington for the annual smelt run. On a successful night, they would bring bucket loads of fresh smelt from the chilly Lake Michigan waters. The next morning, we spent hours cleaning these tasting little fish knowing that meant another spectacular smelt fry! As a young boy, I learned quickly and became a great smelt cleaner! For those who have never cleaned smelt, a pocket knife and toothbrush are all you need!
Over the years, salmon and trout in the great lakes have made the annual smelt runs a thing of the past. Today, smelt runs are very limited and mostly take place on Lake Superior. Those in tune with the smelt runs are very tight lipped about when/where they take these tasty little fish.
For many years, it was very common for many local restaurants and pubs to have annual smelt frys. Today, it has become very difficult to find any remaining restaurants who still serve up the tasty fare. We are fortunate here in Madison to have a couple local places who still serve smelt, but on a very limited basis and often times more by word of mouth than actual advertisement. I have found a local favorite that can’t be beat.
The North Bristol Sportsmans Club has its annual smelt frys beginning in January and lasting until April. This year marks the clubs 40th anniversary of holding the smelt frys. The club serves smelt one Saturday a month, January through April. The smelt fry is an all you can eat dinner and for those who don’t put smelt on the top of their list, chicken is also served. Of course there are lots of extras along with the smelt and nobody leaves hungry! Members of the club do all the cooking and serving and you probably won’t find a cheaper can of beer in Dane County! The doors open at 4:00 and serving begins at 5. Seating is limited and be prepared to wait as locals wait all year for the annual smelt frys.
If you love smelt, or are looking to experience a “true” Wisconsin tradition, consider a smelt fry – you won’t be disappointed!
Check out the website below for more info: