Candlefish is so oily that if caught, dried, and strung on a wick, it can be burned as a candle
The eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus), also known as candlefish, is a small ocean fish, found along the Pacific coast of North America from northern California to Alaska.The name “candlefish” derives from it being so fat during spawning, with up to 15% of total body weight in fat, that if caught, dried, and strung on a wick, it can be burned as a candle. This is the name most often used by early explorers.Indigenous communities of the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska made eulachon an important part of their diet, as well as a valuable trade item with peoples whose territories did not include spawning rivers. The species was caught using traps, rakes, and nets. The harvest continues today, with other residents taking part in the exploitation of the large runs. Today harvested eulachon are typically stored frozen and thawed as needed. They may also be dried, smoked, or canned. Eulachon were also processed for their rich oil. The usual process was to allow the fish to decompose for a week or more in a pit in the ground, then add boiling water and skim off the oil, which would rise to the surface. Eulachon oil (also known as “grease”) was the most important product traded into the interior; as a result, the trails over which the trade was conducted came to be known as grease trails.