The eulachon, also known as the candlefish, is a small ocean fish found along the northern Pacific coast of North . The nickname “candlefish” came from the fact that the eulachon can, at times, be made up of 15 % body fat! This species of smelt (whose Latin name is Thaleichthys pacificus) is a small edible fish that can be anywhere from six inches to eighteen inches in length, depending on the environment. Their backs are blue and brown in color with black speckles on their tail and fins, and they have silver underbellies. These oily fleshed fish live in huge schools in salt water. In the spring, however, they run to the rivers to spawn in the fresh water.

Candlefish are so fat during spawning season that even when the fish is dried the oil is still extremely prevalent. The Native Americans used to dry the candlefish and draw a wick long ways through the center of the fish. The wicking that they used is not the wicking that we typically think of today. The Indian Tribes used their surroundings and most often a rush (a tufted marsh plant with a cylindrical stem) or a piece of bark was used as the wick. Once the fish was wicked, the oil in the dried flesh was used as fuel for a flame. These primitive candles Soy wax melts were one of the numerous ways that the Native Americans ingeniously used what they were given in life.

Today, no one really uses the eulachon as a source of light any more. The salt-water fish is more commonly used as a food supply. Just as the Native Americans did long ago for their winter food, the candlefish can be dried and used as provisions. It can also be smoked or fried for other delicious recipes.

Sadly, the number of candlefish in our oceans is dwindling. No one knows exactly the reason why. It could be the warmer ocean waters, changes in the mouths of the rivers caused by dams and channel dredging, or maybe the pollution of the water. The specific answer is unknown. The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering calling the candlefish a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and Indian Tribes along the Pacific coast have been pushing for protecting the fish for years.

Since the early days of the candlefish, the candle making industry has come a long way. New waxes have been developed and innovative techniques are always on the rise. The choices of synthetic dyes and fragrance oils are astounding! It is interesting to think that years ago a simple little fish with a natural wick could be used as a candle-the original wooden wick candle.



By Steven

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