I picked up some fresh smelt for $5.99/lb at the fish market. They were headless and gutted but had their spines and ribs intact.
I searched around for a recipe, and ended up tossing them with a bit of cornstarch, frying them in olive oil, and then dressing them with salt, pepper, and fresh lemon juice. (Cornstarch is, of course, not a low-carb choice, but I’m not convinced I ended up eating all that much of it. I might try oat fiber next time now that I’ve used the last of my cornstarch.)
Once they were fried, it was easy, if a bit messy, to eat the fillets, and leave the spine, ribs and tails behind. I’ve read that it’s OK to eat the bones, but I didn’t like the texture.
The flavour was very mild – I think I’ll go for a preparation that uses some spices next time I buy them. I ate a bit more than 1/2 lb of smelt at each meal.