Department of Environmental Conservation

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Smelt

Family: Osmeridae

Smelts are found in north temperate and frigid waters in North America, Asia and Europe. Most species are marine or anadromous. Only one species is found in New York's freshwater. It is distinguished by the presence of an adipose fin, a lack of a pelvic axillary process, and the presence of a prominent lateral silver stripe. They also have large teeth on their tongues. Rainbow smelt is anadromous and occurs in coastal streams, the Hudson and Saint Lawrence Rivers and Lake Champlain. Several inland, land-locked populations exist as well, most the result of introductions.

Rainbow Smelt

Rainbow Smelt

Osmerus mordax

Rainbow Smelt is anadromous as a coastal species. It has many landlocked populations in large lakes. Native watersheds include the Lower Hudson, Long Island and Champlain. It also occurs in 13 others, or all but Allegheny and Chemung.

Fish atlas map for Rainbow Smelt.