Candlefish Burning

By , September 27, 2010

During the herring run last spring, we caught a single eulachon, or candlefish. The candlefish, traditionally caught in our area for its oil, can be dried, and then lit on fire. It’s said to burn like a candle, as its name suggests. We decided to see if this was true, so, after identifying it, we strung it up by the gills and suspended it in an old tin can. I put it in the greenhouse to dry—and forgot about it. (Although Mom did not.) It dried all summer.

candle fish

A (very) dried eulochon (candlefish) (Photo: Aly Zeiger).

Recently, we had a bonfire on the beach with my aunt and uncle and remembered the eulachon. We got it out, stuck a wick down its throat, and set the wick alight. The wick burned, but the fish did not catch on fire. After several attempts, we stuck it in the fire and pulled it out with a gaff hook.

candle fish burning

We have ignition! (Photo: Aly Zeiger).

Viola! It burned merrily, although it did give off an oily smoke. Its flame was bright and steady, similar to a candle. But you’d need a lot of fish to light a room for an evening—it was gone pretty fast.

candlefish light

The light of a candlefish (Photo: Aly Zeiger).

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