European Smelt

This is one of the most widespread and numerous smelts. The freshwater morph of the European smelt – lake smelt – is of great commercial value in the lakes of the northwestern part of European Russia and in many lakes in the north of Western Europe. It is one of the commercial species in the Pskov-PeipsiLake.

For the most part of the year, the smelt keeps in the direct vicinity of the shore, most intensively foraging in the summer and fall. With the coming of winter, this intensity drops. The smelts gather in the pre-delta stretches of rivers and stay there until the spawning migration begins. The length of the migration differs from habitat to habitat and apparently is defined by the location of sites appropriate for spawning – many lake smelts and lake smelt spawn in the pre-delta stretches of tributary rivers without entering the river proper. The spawning starts when the water temperature rises to 4°С, and peaks at 6-9°С.

The fry hatch in 15- 20 days and float downstream. Lake smelts feed on plankton crustaceans throughout their lives. They quickly mature, and start spawning in their second or third year. Their lifespan does not exceed 2-3 years, their length 9-10 cm, and weight 6-8 gr. The fertility depends on the dimensions of the fish and starts at 2 thousand eggs.

The species is internationally red-listed.

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