Little is known about the marine populations of this species. Rarely caught in the Puget Sound Basin but represents a common forage fish species in the Columbia River plume. Incidentally caught off the Washington coast by commercial harvesters during trawl fisheries.
Description: The body of the Whitebait Smelt is elongate and pale greenish with a greenish-grey back and a silver band along its sides. This species has a maxillary that extends past the midpoint of a large eye. Whitebait Smelt have an incomplete lateral line and a small adipose fin that is directed backwards. Unlike most other smelt species, which generally have no enlarged teeth in the roof of their mouth, the Whitebait Smelt has a single large canine-like tooth in the center, which is sometimes flanked by a smaller tooth on either side.
Maximum Size: To 22.9 cm (9 in) in length.
Maximum Age: Currently unknown.
Range/Habitat: Whitebait Smelt range from Vancouver Island to San Francisco, California. This species is a mostly nearshore and pelagic fish. Schools of Whitebait Smelt are found from the surface to 103 m (338 ft) and might extend down to 131 m (430 ft). Whitebait Smelt feed on zooplankton and small fishes. They are an important prey species for many marine mammals and birds.
- Love, M.S., 2011. Certainly More Than You Want to Know About The Fishes of The Pacific Coast: A Postmodern Experience. Really Big Press, Santa Barbara, California, 650 p.
- Paquin, M.M., Kagley, A.N., Fresh, K.L. and Orr, J.W., 2014. First Records of the Night Smelt, Spirinchus starksi, in the Salish Sea, Washington. Northwestern Naturalist, 95(1), pp.40-43.
- Encyclopedia of Life: Whitebait Smelt
- Whitebait Smelt Wiki
Photo: Marisa Litz