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Rainbow Smelt Osmerus mordax


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Rainbow Smelts
credit: Oniongirl

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Family: Osmeridae, Smelts view all from this family

Description The rainbow smelt, Osmerus mordax, is an anadromous species of fish inhabiting rivers and coastal areas of North America from New Jersey to Labrador on the east coast and from Vancouver Island to the Arctic Ocean on the west coast. It has been introduced to the Great Lakes, and from there has made its way to various other inland bodies of water in Ontario and the midwestern United States.

The body of the rainbow smelt is slender and cylindrical. It has a silvery, pale green back and is iridescent purple, blue, and pink on the sides, with a light underside. When full grown, the rainbow smelt is between 7 and 9 inches (18 and 23 cm) long and weighs about 3 ounces (85 g), and ones over 12 inches (30 cm) are known. They eat zooplankton, invertebrates and other fish, including small smelt, sculpins, burbot, and whitefish. They are preyed upon by larger predatory fish such as coho salmon, burbot, trout, walleye, and yellow perch.

Dimensions Up to 13" (33 cm).

Habitat Estuaries, tidal flats & salt marshes, Ocean or bay shallows, Tidepools, Lakes & ponds, Rivers & streams.

Range Great Lakes, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Eastern Canada, Alaska.