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Smelt are any of about a dozen species of small (under 15 inches) silvery, oily fish in the Osmeridae family related to trout and salmon. They are found in cold northern waters, in the Atlantic, Pacific and most of the world's seas.

Smelt are characterized by a slender body and a small adipose (fleshy) fin on the dorsal surface of the body. They are mostly anadromous (migrating from saltwater to fresh water to spawn) but there are also marine and freshwater members.


Smelt have fine, delicate flesh and a mild, rich distinctive flavor, with a smell akin to cucumbers. Fresh smelt are generally eaten bones and all -- just breaded (or floured) and fried crisp.

A Pacific species, the eulachon or candlefish, are so oily at spawning time they can be dried and burned as candles.

Kelso, Washington, is known as the Smelt Capital of the World.

Smelt are also harvested commercially for use in the manufacture of fishmeal, for fertilizer and fish oil.




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