A small town tradition continued in Lake Lenore as people from all over came to snack on 500 fillets of smoked whitefish.
The fish were caught by the Lake Lenore Wildlife Federation in the second week on December and served at the Lake Lenore Smoker at the local community hall Jan. 12.
“Yesterday afternoon [Jan. 11] we set the fish out on tables, let them thaw out and then we spice them all up and get them ready to go for so they're ready to go,” said Tim Prodahl, who’s with the federation.
The fish were smoked in 12 barrels that were going well into the night. The event began at 1 pm in the after and went to 2 am the next day, featuring live music and a dance later in the evening.
“The bar owner of the Lake Lenore Hotel started this 25-30 years ago and it was a little signature event for him. It was fantastic,” Prodahl said. “The wildlife federation did the smoking for him outside the bar and, of course, the patrons would come and fill the place up.”
Joe Proynch, who was the bar owner, did the event for years. When circumstances made it impossible for him, he asked the wildlife federation and the community hall to take it over. At that time, Prodahl sat on the board of both organizations.
“We thought, well, what the heck, it's a really good signature event because it's no charge for the fish,” he said. “It's come and eat all the fish you want.
It’s the free meal that adds to the uniqueness of the event, Prodahl said. As visitors came over the years, they asked if they could give donations.
“We were grateful for donations just to cover some of the costs of catching and filleting and cleaning the fish,” Prodahl said.
Any extra money will go towards the operation of the hall and to the operations of the wildlife federation’s facilities on the shores of Lake Lenore. The local Knight of Columbus were also at the event, selling tickets for their quad 50/50.
“In the last few years we've seen a real spike in the amount of people coming through the door,” Prodahl said. “They sit down maybe have a plate of fish, enjoy refreshments then they'll say, ‘gee, I sure would like to take some of them home.’”
To let people take fillets home wasn’t possible when they started asking, but since the wildlife federation started to catch more fish and more smokers were added, they’ve now started selling prepared fillets that are ready to be cooked.