Osmerus mordax

Common Name

Rainbow Smelt

Year Described

Mitchill, 1814


Dorsal Fin: 10-11
Anal Fin: 15-17
Pectoral Fin: 11-12
Pelvic Fin: 8
Gill Rakers: 25-35
Lateral Line Scales: 65-72 (13-30 pored scales)
Vertebrae: 60-68

Body elongate and cylindrical. Mouth terminal. Eye large. Dorsal fin over pelvic fin origin. Pelvic fin not expanded. Adipose fin present. Pectoral fin low on side. Caudal fin forked.


Gray to olive dorsally, grading to white on the belly. A bright silvery stripe on the side. Caudal fin with dusky edge. Rest of fins transparent.


Maximum size to 35cm SL.


Inshore marine, and frequently in freshwater and in brackish estuaries. Forms large schools.

Range Map

 Range Map


Northern Atlantic: Labrador to Delaware


Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2014. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. www.fishbase.org, (02/2014)

Whitehead, P.J.P. , M.-L. Bauchot, J.-C. Hureau, J.G. Nielsen and E. Tortonese. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I-III. UNESCO. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. http://species-identification.org.