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So as not to be confused with something like a soccer hooligan, I give you Eulachon which will take you to the Wikipedia definition and genus, species, etc. everything you learned in biology. I am in Anchorage, Alaska but I grew up in Bristol Bay and these are NOT the smelt that we caught in winter on the Naknek River back home. Not at all. Hooligan are incredibly oily and tend to fall apart once cooked. If you cannot eat your hooligan immediately out of the frying pan, then I would say that smoking them is the best way to go. I only wish that my spring/summer months were leisurely enough to get the smoker out and try a few things. Alas.

I felt like an elder when my daughter stopped by 20-mile River on our way back from Seward and she caught enough hooligan for me and my husband to have lunch. She’s allergic to fish (it’s a crying shame). Then my husband and second daughter and her friend returned a week later and got more than 100 of them. I try to clean them right away by removing the heads and gutting them. In my opinion, they do not freeze well. It’s best to cook them or smoke them right away.

The best way to fry hooligan is to dry them as well as possible in towels or paper towels. Heat about a half inch of oil (I use canola) in a large skillet, very hot. Make a highly seasoned flour by putting about a cup of flour into a plastic “Ziploc” bag and then sprinkling in seasoned salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and onion powder. You can do what you like and each time I do it differently. This instruction is more about the method. Then make an egg wash of 2 eggs mixed with a couple tablespoons of water in a pie tin. Then sprinkle regular unseasoned bread crumbs in another pie tin, so you have three things: bag of seasoned flour, pie tin of egg wash, and pie tin of bread crumbs.

Drop five or six cleaned, fairly dry hooligan into the bag of seasoned flour. Shake off the excess flour mixture and roll fish in the egg wash, then roll in the bread crumbs. Fry. Each batch does not take long at all. They are tiny fish, 6-10 inches usually. My husband and I can eat 6-7 at a sitting, so I divvied them up over two days and I delivered about 20 to my daughter’s office. That was a bad idea, by the way. It’s like saying “I’ll deliver pancakes to your office.” They’re pretty terrible by the time you get there. Hooligan really need to be eaten out of the frying pan. Really. No one complained, but me.

Place onto paper towels to absorb the extra oil and serve immediately. Yummy!

BW and my husband, they eat theirs backbone and all. Me, I pull the backbone out and then eat the rest. The backbone is a bit too much crunch for my tastes. I fed the crispy tails to the dog and he seemed to enjoy it very much.

Here below is a picture of smoked hooligan. As I recall, we did not brine them, simply placed them in a smoker for awhile.*

*More info on smoked hooligan added 5/19/2020.

  • Smoked Hooligan Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups water
  • About 30 fresh hooligan, heads and guts removed

In a large bowl, stir together first five ingredients. Add hooligan. Try using a plate or bowls to weight the fish in the brine, so that they’re fully submerged. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least three hours. I did three hours, but they could have used a more salty flavor, so next time I might try 4-6 hours.

Remove fish from brine and rinse with water as you lay the fish out on towels. Pat dry.

Spray your smoker racks with non-stick spray. Get your smoker going with your choice of wood chips. Place fish onto racks and then into smoker. Our smoker runs really hot, so it only took an hour to fully smoke/cook the fish.

Remove fish from racks. They are ready to eat, freeze, or can.

  • Canning Smoked Hooligan in Jars
  • MUST use a pressure canner. The instructions I’ve read on Insta-Pot say that it cannot be used for canning. Maybe that has changed. Follow the instructions on your own pressure canner.
  • I used four half-pint and three quarter-pint jars.
  • I used approximately 25 smoked hooligan, cut to fit in the appropriate jar.
  • I added a couple slices of fresh, de-seeded, jalapeno to each jar.
  • The water in my pressure canner was hot when I loaded the jars into it. I strapped the lid onto the canner, but left the stopcock open.
  • Once the stopcock exhausted a steady stream of water vapor for ten minutes, I closed it.
  • Once the pressure reached 10 psi I started the timer for 100 minutes.
  • I kept an eye on the pressure guage to makes sure the pressure stayed at 10 psi.
  • At 100 minutes I turned off the heat and then let the canner sit for many hours to cool. I opened the stopcock to vent, then I removed the lid of the canner and removed the jars.
  • Voila!

10 psi for 100 minutes

Serve on crackers. The flavor is very mild. I could have left the seeds in the jalapenos for a bit more kick and I could have left the fish in the brine for a little more salty flavor.