Allosmerus Elongatus



Onshore, Nearshore

1 - 1 pounds

7" - 9"

Whitebait Smelt

Also Known As: Smelt

Whitebait Smelt (Allosmerus elongatus) Fish Description

The Whitebait Smelt (Allosmerus elongatus) is a small fish of the Osmeridae family. It is often found swimming in small to medium schools and is often eaten by other larger fishes such as salmon, striped bass, and trout. Whitebait Smelts are also a popular food fish in some parts of the US. In fact, the fish is often sold in Californian seafood markets.

The Whitebait Smelt is shaped like a tiny torpedo with big eyes and a slightly forked tail. It has a pale silvery color with a slight tinge of green or brown on the dorsal side; although it’s so pale that it looks like it is translucent and colorless. The fish can also be recognized through the visible white line that runs from the gills to the base of the tail on both its sides.

The Whitebait Smelt is an anadromous fish that migrates to different environments for most of its life. Although they live most of their life in the north-eastern Pacific’s coastal waters, they would often travel to estuaries, bays, rivers, lakes, streams, and lakes to breed. They are also known to spawn near the shores, particularly in subtidal zones.    


Diet and Size

The Whitebait Smelt is a tiny food fish that usually grows nine inches and smaller—although there have been some records of this fish species growing up to twenty-eight inches in length. The fish is also known to be carnivorous, often feeding on tiny worms and crustaceans, fish eggs and fish larvae, as well as planktons.  


Whitebait Smelt Interesting Facts

  • Whitebait Smelts can survive in both salt and freshwater environments.
  • They would often migrate to freshwater environments to spawn.
  • There are many smelt species found around the globe and most basically look the same except for some minute details.
  • Most smelts are anadromous (migrates to and from freshwater) except for one, the surf smelt, which just stays in the sea.
  • They are often targeted by commercial fishers using large nets to catch them by the hundreds or even thousands.
  • Smelts are a popular food fish in some countries including the US as well as some countries in Europe and East Asia.
  • Smelt festivals are celebrated in some parts of the world to honor this tiny fish.
  • In the US, the fish is often pan-fried in flour and butter; or deep-fried in batter.
  • The entire fish can be eaten—yes, including its head, bones, guts, and all!
  • The fish has a mild distinctive flavor that is said to be quite similar in taste and smell to a freshly cut cucumber.
  • The fish is commercially harvested to be used for making fishmeal, fish oil, or bait for targeting other fish species.
  • Kelso, Washington is said to be the “Smelt Capital of the World.”


Fishing Techniques

The whitebait Smelt can be caught either via a net or by a conventional hook and line. If you’re going to be fishing with a hook and line, an ultra-light rod and spinning reel paired with 2- to 4-pound fluorocarbon is a must because of this fish’s minuscule size. Also, tiny jigs and spoons tipped with a mealworm is said to be the most effective lure you can use to catch this fish. Lastly, once you hook a Whitebait Smelt, you have to reel in as slow as you can as not to tear the fish’s soft mouth tissue.


Habitat and Distribution

The Whitebait Smelt can be found in the north-eastern Pacific, specifically from coastal waters of Vancouver Island in Canada to San Francisco, California in the US. The fish is also known to be a demersal schooling fish that lives near the bottom of the ocean, typically in shallow waters with depths between three to three hundred feet.