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Ice Fishing: A Real Maine Winter Sport

I remember going fishing with my Dad. It was something he enjoyed and taught me about. And it was something we did together. Most of the things I remember my Dad doing with me involved sports or some form of competition: shooting hoops, bicycle riding trips, target shooting, walks and hikes through the woods. So, when my dad came down with Alzheimer’s Disease about five years ago, at least the one thing he still had was his physical health.

I have a vague memory of being a little girl, very bundled up, standing with my dad on the ice on Fish Street in Thomaston. We had a sled and Dad had tools with him that I now realize were an auger, jigs, bobbers, and a jiggle stick. I remember he drilled a hole in the ice, which I anxiously waited for a big fish head to pop up through. Though I don’t remember that happening, I do recall being just as curious about the string of little smelt fishes which Dad pulled, like a magician, from the icy river.

And of course, I do remember it being very cold.

I see the ice shacks out there on the banks of Fish Street once again. It is the beginning of the ice fishing season in Maine. It is a mysterious sport. I only wish I were a little braver.

Here’s something good to do with those smelts, if you are brave enough to go catch them.

Fried Romano Cheese Battered Smelts
½ cup of flour
½ cup of Romano cheese
4 eggs
¼ teaspoon each of black pepper, oregano, garlic powder

Remove heads, tails, and fins of 6-12 smelts. Clean insides. Wash and drain dry.

Mix together all of the ingredients above. Will remind you of pancake batter. Dredge fish through mixture, then hurry up and put them into hot oil until golden brown. Serve at once. 

Dinner for 1, if you have an appetite like mine.

Melanie Hyatt is an editor at Maine Food & Lifestyle magazine.

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