Smelt fish. Description, features, species, lifestyle and habitat of smelt

Smelt - a small, schooling fish, a representative of the class of radianthus, family of smelt. It is found in the cool seas of the World Ocean, in rivers, lakes, and inland waters of the Northern Hemisphere.

Smelt is dedicated to the holiday. It takes place in the month of May in St. Petersburg and reflects the love of the townspeople for this silverfish. The refreshing, cucumber smell of smelt is in harmony with the May sun and confirms the final arrival of spring.

Smelt is liked not only by residents of Russia. In South Korea, Gangwon-do Province is hosting a celebration associated with the onset of spawning. In Finland, in mid-May, residents of the Kainuu region hold a similar festival. In early May, in the town of Lewiston, New York State, the population devotes two holidays to the gastronomic qualities of smelt.

Description and Features

Smelt is a slender fish of silver color. The most mature, adult specimens are stretched to a length of 17-21 cm. There are champions growing up to 30 cm and reaching a weight of 300 g. Predator. This is confirmed by the fine-toothed mouth.

Most of the life cycle is held in pelagic zones adjacent to places where rivers flow into the seas. In summer and autumn, it feeds intensely. By winter, the intensity of the zhor decreases. The fish is pulled to the estuaries.

Smelt sexual dimorphism is almost not expressed. Only capelin, a fish belonging to the smelt family, clearly shows sexual characteristics. Capelin males are 10% larger than females, which is not usual for smelt. They have more developed, elongated fins. On the sides there are fleecy strips of scales.


In the literature, there are two opinions about the systemic position, which occupies smelt. Which fish family it represents has not always been clearly defined. The outdated claim for salmon can be dropped. Smelt is part of a family created specifically for her: smelt.

The genus of smelt (lat. Osmerus) includes 4 species.

  • Osmerus eperlanus is a European smelt. A small fish that lives in the Baltic and North Seas. Not uncommon in the inland waters of Scandinavia, the north-west of Russia. Leading a closed existence in the lakes, it degenerated into a species form, known under the name smelt.
  • Osmerus mordax or Asian smelt. The view includes several subspecies. It lives in the northern seas. Approaches the shores of the European and Siberian parts of Russia. In the east, it moves to the shores of the Korean peninsula. It is found in the coastal waters of Alaska. It enters the estuaries, can rise upstream and be perceived as smelt river.
  • Osmerus spectrum or dwarf smelt. It is a North American analogue of smelt. Lives in lakes in eastern Canada and the USA, in the state of New England.
  • Osmerus dentex or toothy smelt. It lives in the Pacific Ocean. He mastered the Arctic seas, coastal Siberian waters from the Bering Sea to the White. In name and range, it is similar to a subspecies of Asian smelt, whose system name is Osmerus mordax dentex.

A relative of the ordinary smelt is the small-smelt. Fishermen often call it abbreviated: The system name for this genus is Hipomesus. It includes five species. Two of them are noteworthy.

  • Smelt sea small-breasted.
  • Small river smelt.

The name of the fish reflects its main difference from the ordinary smelt: it has a small mouth. The upper jaw ends before reaching the middle of the head. The mandibular bone has a deep notch.

The homeland of these fish is the Far East, the Kuril Islands. The small-smelt has inhabited the coastal waters of Alaska and Canada, found south in the Gulf of California. A distinctive feature of the marine malorota is spawning in salt water. Her river cousin, on the contrary, does not leave freshwater bodies.

The family of smelt includes fish of exceptional commercial importance - it is capelin. Distributed in the northern part of the oceans. It has an external and dimensional resemblance to an ordinary smelt. Spawns without going into rivers, off the coast. Smelt in the photo and capelin are indistinguishable.

Lifestyle & Habitat

In relation to migration processes smelt - a fish many faces. The definition of “walk-through” refers to most of its types. Fish carries out annual migrations from the seas to spawning places: to rivers. This transition has a serious minus - high energy costs.

But it also gives some benefits - exemption from parasites that die when water salinity changes. Most importantly, the freshwater environment is more loyal to caviar and juveniles. Smelt has species living in isolation in inland waters.

Spawning grounds can be located in the flowing rivers, but can be near feeding grounds. Therefore hard to say what fish smelt belongs to: to checkpoints or settled, residential. Moreover, some species can be attributed to semi-passage fish. They spawn in estuarine sections of rivers.

In the last century, in the Soviet Union, smelt was resettled in inland waters. Young European smelt and smelt were launched into rivers and lakes. The experiments were mostly successful. In the Russian Federation, these experiments ceased.

There is no threat to the existence of smelt, as a species. But climate and biosphere changes lead to degradation of fish. Reductions in the average smelt size are noted by fishermen, in particular, in the Leningrad region.


At the beginning of its life, the diet, like all fry of predatory fish, consists of plankton. Then invertebrates, tadpoles, and crustaceans are included in the diet. Large specimens of smelt can attack juveniles and adults of other species.

Cannibalism is no stranger to this silverfish. Because of the tendency to devour caviar, everywhere, where is smelt found, there is a threat of declining fish populations. Smelt, eating all small living creatures, is itself an important link in the overall food chain.

Its caviar is a nutritious help not only for aquatic inhabitants, but also for birds and insects. Young smelt predators are hunted by marine and freshwater predators, including smelt itself. A significant contribution to food well-being is made by adult fish. She is fed in a massive lock: cod, sea bass, marine animals, including cetaceans.

Reproduction and longevity

In early spring, spawning of fish begins. Migration paths in individual smelt populations vary significantly. For example. On the Yenisei, the fish makes a transition of 1000 kilometers. To overcome this distance, smelt takes 3-4 months.

For Lena fish to continue offspring swims 190-200 kilometers. She has to make approximately the same trip when spawning on the Amur River. For 100 kilometers, the fish rises along the Elbe. Only 1-2 kilometers stretches the road to spawning grounds in the rivers of Primorye. Belomorsk smelt does not rise along rivers for more than 5-10 kilometers.

Dropping, imitates the behavior of his larger brother. By the will of fate, he spends most of his time in the lake, and rushes to spawn in rivers and even streams flowing into the lake. The way to the place of spawning at the snout is short-lived: it amounts to a hundred meters. Sometimes spawning places coincide with places of constant habitat, feeding.

Spawning can begin at a temperature of +4 ° C. Goes to the active phase at + 8 ... +10 ° C. Water temperature mainly determines the timing of spawning. In Western Europe, spawning begins in February-March. Shifts for a month in North America and Europe. At the same time, in March-April, it takes place in central Russia. In the White Sea, spawning takes place in May. In Siberian rivers - in June-July.

Females toss all eggs at once. It takes several hours. The males connect in series with several females, throw out the milk in portions. Because of this, they spend more time in spawning grounds than females. The whole process takes place, usually at night.

The fish approaches the place of spawning in groups, schools. In small rivers and streams, water begins to “boil” from the fish. Many predators, including the raven, are waiting for this moment to be satisfied with easy prey. But food abundance does not occur for long. After a few days, spawning ends.

During spawning, smelt acquires a specific outfit. The gill covers and dorsal part of the head turn black. The lower jaw is sharpened. Tubercles appear on the body. In females, these changes are less pronounced.

It is assumed that the tubercles allow identification of the sex when the fish touch. In case of touch, individuals of the same sex of the fish diverge to the sides. Diverse individuals undertake further mating acts.

Spawning takes place at a shallow depth. In places where there are algae, stones, driftwood. That is, everything caviar can stick to. Her a lot. She lies down in layers. With the decline of water, part of the caviar dries. Part is eaten by small aquatic predators, including smelt itself.

The amount of caviar to be swept depends on the variety and age of the fish. Dumplings produce 2 thousand eggs. Larger species - tens of thousands. Females of the same species, at the top of their development, have reached a maximum size of up to 100 thousand eggs.

After two to three weeks, the fry hatch. They go downstream. Begin an independent life. Flocks in the second year of life can continue the clan. In other species, puberty does not occur so quickly. Later, the Siberian population of European smelt is ready for procreation. It takes her up to 7 years.


Fresh smelt is a local product. Accordingly, prices for it in different regions may vary. In St. Petersburg, for example, price per kg smelt, today or yesterday caught, reaches 700 rubles. Which translates it into the category of almost gourmet products. Small fish are sold cheaper: 300-500 rubles per kilogram.

In addition to seasonal fresh smelt, you can buy frozen, dried, smoked smelt. Canned food is produced. In the processed, ready and canned form, the Far Eastern, that is, smelt is small-sized, is sold. For frozen fish, you can expect a price of 200-300 rubles per kilogram. A 150 gram can of smelt canned food in oil can cost the buyer 100-120 rubles.

Capelin - smelt fish and her direct relative is usually traded in frozen and smoked form. Canned food is made from this fish. Kinship with smelt is proved not only by morphological similarity, but by price analogy. That is, prices for capelin are the same as for smelt.

Catching and how to cook smelt

All kinds of smelt attract the attention of amateur fishermen. To a particular extent, this occurs at the time of spawning of fish. Smelt gathers in flocks and approaches the shore when the ice has not yet melted.

This is in the hands of all lovers of ice fishing from Scandinavia to the Far East and Japan. In North America, for example, in the state of New England, there is a similar tradition of fishing smelt from ice.

The tackle is a winter fishing rod with mormyshki mounted on leashes. The number of hooks per fisherman should not exceed 10 pieces. Based on this, law-abiding fishermen usually put three fishing rods with three leashes.

When ice melts, the fishermen forget about the holes and winter gear, pick up fine-mesh nets, nets, lifts. They measure their intentions with the law: they acquire the licenses necessary for this type of fishing. And they catch smelt in the sunset, from bridges and embankments.

Small artels produce smelt for commercial purposes. Their catches are relatively small. But this business will not fade away, because smelt delicious fish. It shows increased gastronomic interest. From the category of food for the poor, fish is gradually moving into a gourmet series.

Although usually a simple dish is prepared from it. Gutted fish, clean, roll in flour and fry. The increase in the gastronomic status of smelt is confirmed by a simple fact. From the communal kitchens, the preparation of dishes from this fish was transferred to the restaurant chefs.

Smelt can be served marinated in white wine with baked paprika and shallots. Or smoked fish, fried in a breading of nuts, served with tkemali sauce. Similar, complex dishes appeared a lot. Including Japanese rolls, terrine, and a trendy smorrebrod.

The benefits of smelt fish not only in her wonderful taste and special smell. This is a very nutritious product. 100 grams contains 100 kilocalories. It contains a lot of minerals: potassium, useful for the cores of magnesium, calcium, strengthening bones, iron, phosphorus and so on. Protein per 100 grams of fish 13.4 grams. Fat - 4.5 grams.

Watch the video: Sea Level Rise Implications to San Francisco Bay Wetlands and Delta smelt (February 2020).

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