Fishing Ontario Canada


Distribution in the Local Area:

Bark Lake,


Osmerus, from the Greek, osme, "odor". Gives off an odor likened to freshly cut cucumbers
mordax, from the Latin, "biting"
Common name from its shimmering colors in water, which disappear when removed from the water
Other common names include: American Smelt, Freshwater Smelt, Frost Fish, Ice Fish, Leefish, Smelt


Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
Subclass Neopterygii
Infraclass Teleostei
Superorder Protacanthopterygii
Order Osmeriformes, the argentines and smelts
Suborder Osmeroidei
Family Osmeridae, the smelts
Genus Osmerus, the rainbow smelts
Family Osmeridae contains 9 species in 6 genera in North America, mostly Arctic or north temperate in distribution. Most are saltwater fishes. Populations near the ocean are andromodus, but those in the midwest are landlocked.


typically 7"-9"
can exceed 12"


3 ounces


silvery with pale green back
iridescent purple, blue, and pink on sides
white belly


slender and cylindrical
gill rakers long and slender, numbering 26-35
dorsal fin of 8-11 rays
anal fin of 12-16 rays
pectoral fins of 11-14 rays
pelvic fins of 8 rays
has adipose fin
tail fin deeply forked
cycloid scales
lateral line incomplete, with 62-72 scales


elongated and pointed snout
mouth large, with protruding lower jaw
teeth on both mandibles


up to 8 years


Smelt are schooling fish inhabiting the cool, medium depths of lakes.
Sensitive to bright lights and warm temperatures; usually found in dark, cool depths offshore. Optimum water temperatures 43º-56º F.


Feed primarily on crustaceans and small fish, but also eat aquatic and terrestrial insects. Preyed upon by other fishes, including many of our most prized sport species, such as the lake trout and landlocked salmon


Introduced to Michigan's inland waters as food for stocked salmon in 1912, soon escaping to Lake Michigan, reaching Lake Superior by 1930.
In the lower Great Lakes, rainbow smelt were at first regarded as a nuisance, hordes of them invading and becoming entangled in fish nets.
In Lake Superior, however, they were welcomed both as a forage fish and as a recreational target during their spring spawning runs. Systematic harvesting began in 1952, and dip-netting and seining in spawning streams has developed into a popular, seasonal sport.


Processed for animal feeds but also enjoyed by people. Spring smelt run has become a North Shore tradition


Spawns in spring, principally during darkness. Female can produce 12,000 to 50,000 eggs, which sink to the bottom and become attached to gravel substrate by a short stalk formed from the outer shell membrane.
Eggs hatch rapidly and larval young drift downstream to deep waters.
Sexual maturity attained at 2 years of age.


This introduced species poses a potential threat to the fishes of our northern lakes. Though a forage fish for larger species, such as Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum) and Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush), it is a voracious feeder upon the young of these and other native fish.