Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Osmeriformes
(Smelts) > Osmeridae
Etymology: Osmerus: Greek, osme = odorous; similar to freshly cut cucumbers (Ref. 45335); mordax: mordax meaning biting (Ref. 10294).
Environment / Climate / Range
Marine; freshwater; brackish; pelagic-oceanic; anadromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - 425 m (Ref. 58426), usually ? - 150 m (Ref. 96339). Temperate, preferred 2°C (Ref. 107945); 73°N - 41°N (Ref. 26213)
North Atlantic: Lake Melville, Labrador, Canada to Delaware River, Pennsylvania, (maybe to Virginia), and inland along Saint Lawrence River to Lake Superior. Northwest Pacific: off Russia (Ref. 26334).
Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm 19.5  range ? - 19.8 cm
Max length : 35.6 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 1998); max. reported age: 7 years (Ref. 52222)
soft rays: 12 - 16;
Vertebrae: 58 - 70. Body elongate, laterally compressed, greatest depth at anterior of dorsal fin origin. Head moderate; eye moderately large; snout elongate, pointed. Mouth large; lower jaw protruding, maxillary extending to middle of eye or beyond, well toothed on vomer, palatine, pterygoid, basibranchial, dentary, maxillary, and tongue. Teeth specially enlarged on tongue and front of vomer. Body color is pale green on back, with purple, blue, and pink iridescent reflections on the side when freshly caught.
Nerito-pelagic (Ref. 58426). A schooling species that occurs in midwater of lakes or inshore coastal waters (Ref. 1998); at temperatures ranging from 7.2-15.6°C. Migrates up to 1,000 km upstream in rivers (Ref. 6793). Occurs possibly to 425 m (Ref. 2851). Feeds on invertebrates such as amphipods, ostracods, aquatic insect larvae and aquatic worms (Ref. 1998); food also include copepods, euphausiids, mysids and small fishes (silversides, mummichogs and herring) (Ref. 5951, 10294). Headed, gutted, sold fresh, frozen and precooked. Eaten sautéed and fried (Ref. 9988).
Spawning runs occur when temperature is between 8.9-18.3°C, may last for 3 weeks, peak for 1 week. Lengths of both sexes decrease as spawning progress. Two or more tuberculated males maintain position against a female in swift water, eggs released in clusters and presumably milt released simultaneously. Spawning usually takes place at night, spawners move downstream to the lake during daytime.
Mecklenburg, K.C., P.R. Møller and D. Steinke, 2011. Biodiversity oif the Arctic marine fishes: taxonomy and zoogeography. Marine Biodiversity 41(1):109-140. (Ref. 86838)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 109396)
CITES (Ref. 94142)
Threat to humans
Fisheries: commercial; gamefish: yes