Palanga Smelt Fishing Festival

Palanga Smelt Fishing Festival
Palanga Smelt (Palangos Stinta) is an annual fishing festival held in the Lithuanian city of Palanga to celebrate the beginning of the smelt season. Every February, people from all over the country come to Palanga to participate in or watch fishing competitions, indulge in fried smelt and other Lithuanian specialties, buy souvenirs, and simply have a good time.

The European smelt, commonly referred to as simply smelt, is a small sea fish that lives in European coastal waters from the Baltic Sea to the Bay of Biscay. Its characteristic feature is its intense fresh smell reminiscent of fresh cucumbers.

The so-called smelt season, when the smelt gather in large quantities for spawning, takes place in February and March, if the water temperature is warm enough (above 9 °C/48 °F). During this period, the fish can be easily caught with nets, and many restaurants in the Baltic region offer fried smelt as a seasonal specialty. Some Baltic cities, including the Lithuanian city of Palanga, even hold fishing festivals during the smelt season.

Palanga is a resort city in western Lithuania. It is the country’s busiest resort during the summer season, but the city is worth visiting during other seasons as well. For example, the annual Palanga Smelt fishing festival, typically held during the second weekend of February, is a major tourist attraction.

Palanga Smelt is a celebration combining the fishing traditions of the Baltic coast, local cuisine, history and culture. Since its inception in 2003, it has become a popular winter attraction that draws thousands of guests from all over Lithuania and abroad. The main focus of the festival is, of course, smelt: fried smelt, smoked smelt, pickled smelt, baked smelt… In other words, all kinds of smelt to choose from. But the event isn’t just about eating fish, however delicious this fish may be.

The festival offers rich and diverse programming that includes the smelt fishing competition on Palanga Bridge, maritime competitions such as anchor lifting and boat towing, a large fair with handcrafted souvenirs and local foods, cooking demonstrations, food tastings and eating contests, fish grilling competitions, concerts, winter swimming, and many other events and activities. Numerous artisans, fish chefs, and entertainers come to Palanga to show off their skills and create an unforgettable experience for the attendees.

The main events of the Palanga Smelt Festival take place on Jonas Basanavičius Promenade and on the city pier, but some are held in other parts of the city. Admission to the festival is free – everyone is welcome to join the festivities, which are very easy to find: just follow the unmistakable cucumber smell!

By the way, smelt dishes are served at local restaurants and cafes, as well as by street vendors, throughout the entire smelt season, so if you happen to visit Palanga in February, you can enjoy them even if you’ve missed the festival itself: just look for a stylized smelt sign informing that smelt dishes are available.

Palanga Smelt Fishing Festival





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