- Rainbow smelt are rather small fish, generally growing to between 6 and 10 inches in length. They weigh between 1 and 6 ounces.
- They are slender fish and have a pointed head with a relatively large mouth and teeth. Rainbow smelt are mostly silver, but have a pretty iridescence shine when fresh and smell like cucumbers (hence the name).
Rainbow smelt facts
- Species name: Osmerus mordax
- Female rainbow smelt lay roughly between 20,000 and 80,000 eggs depending on their size.
- Smelt are spring spawners; mainly from early March to early May.
- Rainbow smelt spawn in fresh water, and only at night. The eggs survive best in fast moving water and on aquatic vegetation.
- Young smelt eat zooplankton and adult smelt eat mostly small crustaceans and fish.
- Rainbow smelt are favorite among predators; with estimates of up to 72% of adult smelt dying each year. Predators include:
- Striped bass
- Marine mammals
- Rainbow smelt are schooling fish and popular for anglers for chance to catch many in one day and their fine taste.
- You can use several kinds of fishing gear to catch rainbow smelt, including cane poles, ultra-light spinning outfits, and handlines, but nets during the spawning run are prohibited.
- Frying is one of the most popular methods for cooking smelt.