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common name for a small, slender fish of the family Osmeridae. Most species are marine, but some ascend freshwater streams to spawn and others are landlocked in lakes. The rainbow or American smelt, Osmerus mordax, averages 10 in. (25 cm) in length and 1 lb (.45 kg) in weight. It is valued for its delicious, fragrant flesh, although its feeding habits are destructive and sometimes cannibalistic. The Pacific rainbow smelt, O. dentex, is found in Alaska and NE Asia. The candlefish or eulachon, Thaleichthys pacificus, a fish of the smelt family found from Oregon to Alaska, is named for the fact that it is so fat at spawning time that when dried and strung on a wick it can be burned as a primitive candle.

The top smelt, Atherinops affinis, and jack smelt are Pacific silversidessilversides,
common name for small shore fishes, belonging to the family Antherinidae, abundant in the warmer waters of the Atlantic and Pacific, and named for the silvery stripe on either side of the body.
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 of the family Atherinidae, which belong to a different order. The deep-sea smelts, family Bathylagidae, and herring smelts, family Argentinidae, are closely related to each other but also belong to a different order (Argentiniformes); they were formerly classed with the true smelts.

True smelts are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Osmeriformes, family Osmeridae.

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any marine or freshwater salmonoid food fish of the family Osmeridae, such as Osmerus eperlanus of Europe, having a long silvery body and occurring in temperate and cold northern waters
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
High average TW values were measured for age-1 smelt in 2005 and 2006 (2.25 g and 3.65 g, respectively) and for age-2 smelt an exceptionally high value of 7.7 g in 2006.
The number of smelt did not depend directly on either the catch or numbers of age-0+ pikeperch, except in 2005 (distinguished by an outstandingly high number of age-0+ piscivores).
Of the 369 age-0+ pikeperch examined for food items in July 2005, 115 had consumed age-0+ smelt (1.7 smelt ingested, average 3.1 per stomach).
"Right now there's a mass of smelt stalled in the Columbia right off the Portland Airport," he said.
Roelle enjoys pan-fried smelt rolled in cornmeal, but he was mostly interested in laying in a supply of bait for his Fishpatrick's Guide Service.
"I've heard a lot about smelt dipping, but I've never tried it," he said.
The smelt diet included very few rotifers: only Lecane sp.
According to Ivlev's electivity index (Wootton, 1998), age 0+ smelt preferred cladocerans to copepods (Table 1).
It has been shown that age 0+ smelt can feed also on phytoplankton in particular situations and to continue feeding on zooplankton thereafter.
Smelt are very tasty, but also pretty rich so that eating a dozen is very filling.
The big smelt runs of Lake Ontario's eastern basin ended by the 1970's, and today only a few diehard smelters continue to pursue the fish.
Editor's note: While smelting is no longer very productive on Lake Ontario tributaries, large spring runs of smelt occur on a number of the Finger Lakes and on several larger lakes in the Adirondacks.