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Smelt's body, averaging 20 centimetres, is narrow with an elongated head. They are silver-coloured though they also have differing green hues depending on their origin. Their translucent skin is covered with tiny scales.

The flesh of smelt is a delicate white. It is very flavourful, some types having a faint cucumber scent.

Culinary tips and advice

You will find fresh or frozen whole smelt in your Metro fishmonger's counter.

  • Amateur chefs prepare it in a variety of ways: deep-fried, grilled, pan- fried, oven-baked or with a sauce as accompaniment.
  • As the skin is very thin, it is also edible and easily digested.


Rainbow smelt is available in winter and spring. It is not available in the fall until the formation of ice on the streams and rivers.

Nutritional value

The smelt is a fatty fish. For the weight-conscious, steaming, poaching or cooking in parchment would be the wisest choice.


Smelt is an excellent source de protein. It is also rich in vitamins A, B9, B12, beta-carotene, niacin, retinol, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium.

Storage life

Fresh fish should be cooked as soon as possible following purchase.

 Refrigerator 4° C (40° F)Freezer -18° C (-4° F)
Fresh smelt2 to 3 days4 to 6 months
Cooked smelt1 to 2 days------