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Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus) are a major food source for fish eating birds and other fish such as trout and sea bass.

Smelt

Status:

  • Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list of Threatened Species
  • UKBAP Priority Species
  • Species of principal importance for the purpose of conserving of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006

Typical size: 10-15cm

Lateral line scale count: Smelt have a very short lateral line extending 8 to 10 scales from the gill cover. Over the rest of the body there is no lateral line but the Smelt has a scale count of 59-70.

Lifespan: 8 years

Appearance: Smelt are a relatively small silver fish and a distant relation of the salmonids having an adipose fin.

The smelt is a marine fish but enters freshwater in the spring to spawn. They shoal in large numbers and are a major food source for fish eating birds and other fish such as trout and sea bass. They feed primarily on small crustaceans and shrimps as well as small fish and fry. The mouths lower jar projects beyond the upper jaw and the mouth is lined with rows of many teeth.

Read more about the smelt in our fisheries & angling team blog

Last date edited: 5 August 2016