Smelt: Main Image

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Buying Tips

Quality smelt are easy to recognize. Fresh smelt never smells fishy, it smells fresh. The eyes should appear bright and clear, almost alive. The gills should be clean, and the skin moist and with tightly adhering, shiny scales. Fresh smelt flesh will give slightly when you press it with a finger, then spring back into shape.


Though rainbow smelt thrive in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, they can also be found landlocked in Lake Erie. Eulachon, also called candlefish or Columbia River smelt, is a more oily fish than rainbow smelt. Smelt are sold fresh or frozen, headed and gutted, or whole.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2024.