Coon Hunters Smelt and Cod Fry


Hello and welcome to the blog.  Today is Friday – the first one after Ash Wednesday.  Out here in rural Iowa there is a large Catholic population.  The Lenten fish meals are popular!

The icy Maquoketa River

Tonight’s event was at the Scotch Grove Coon Hunter’s Lodge in northern Jones County.  It’s in the middle of nowhere – only a gravel road leads to the building out here in the boonies.  There are steep hills in the area before and after the Maquoketa River… and several camping opportunities for this summer.

This morning I scouted the gravel roads to see if they were muddy or icy … or both.  They were navigable so the plans were made to revisit tonight.  On the way I saw a couple of nests including this very large one.  The occupants were nearby.

Nearby I saw another bird.  This lone eagle was much smaller and was watching from a vantage point just above the road.  I had to lighten the picture a bit to see the definition.  Though not a fan of eagles, they are beautiful birds.  We’re getting quite a population of them in Iowa.

On the way home, I saw a guy cleaning the shoulders of the road with an extra wide blade.


Fast forward to 5PM.  Buddy Steve picked me up and we headed over to the meal.  The Scotch Grove Coon Hunters grounds are a remote and peaceful place to camp.  They offer 1 spot with electricity for $10.  Non-electric sites are just $5.  Nearby public hunting areas would allow one to camp for free.  The only downside is that in this part of the county there are a lot of rattlesnakes in the timber.

Fried smelt… Yes, you can eat the tails, spine, and fins.

Smelt, cod nuggets, cheesy potatoes, cole slaw, and beans… All you can eat… and we were all eating heartily!

Smelt is a member of the Osmeridae family and are enjoyed all around the world.  These tiny fish are born in fresh water rivers and normally migrate to the oceans to live out their life.  They have been introduced to many inland waterways including lakes and rivers.  The fish used for this gathering were caught in one of the Great Lakes and brought back.

Fishing buddy Steve H.

Paul R. and his wife. Paul is the blacksmith in a pioneer museum. The guy in the green was the person who kept supplying us with more and more fish.

Steve D. and his wife. Steve and I have coffee in the morning at McDonald’s. We fish many of the same streams. Steve used to have a painting business.

Needless to say, we all ate very well and had a fun time.  I saw quite a number of friends from the area.  There will be more fish fry meals in the coming days but it might be a while before attending another!  I’m stuffed “to the gills” with smelt right now.

Maybe just one more…

Take care and thanks for stopping by!  Safe and happy camping!

Brad and Jenny and Duke
Jones County, Iowa


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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

4 Responses to Coon Hunters Smelt and Cod Fry

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Looks like a sweet little town. I love the Bald Eagels and wish that some day I can get a picture or 2 of them.
    You look all very well fed!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! I met up with some of the fish eaters this morning at McDonald’s. None of us is hungry for more fish right now – we were too well fed. It was a fun time. There’s not much to do in the country so these evening get togethers are a fun time. The bald eagles are pretty to look at. I worry that one might attack Jenny when we’re camping so she’s always at leash length when we’re out there… The weather is quickly warming up to where one can work camp again… It’s been a long winter! Take care! — Brad

  2. my_vantasy says:

    The last time I had fish was New Year’s Eve. It had so many bones in it, that I said, “The heck with this!” and started eating vegetarian. Reading about your good time at the fish fry and seeing the pictures reminds me of how much I liked some fish dishes , but I am OK without fish. Lent will test the strength of my vegetarian conviction! Have a great week!

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi! I hear you about the bones. Buddy Steve got some bones in his cod last night. They can be pretty annoying. The smelt had bones, of course, but they were very soft. I hope all goes well with the vegetarian eating. There are many great things you can enjoy. If it was vegan, I couldn’t do it… but with eggs and dairy there are exquisite things to enjoy. I’m actually craving a good veggie pizza right now. (You’re a great influence!) Take care! – VT