Top Wave

Alive in Salem Sound

Rainbow Smelt

Smelt are in Salem Sound and use some of our rivers to spawn. Mass Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has been working to increase the smelt population by releasing millions of one-fourth inch smelt fry into the Crane River, Danvers.

To read more check out Danvers Herald article "Fish gotta' swim and spawn"


North River Awareness Week

Every year in the spring, we meet DMF biologists to see what they have
caught that day and discuss the return of rainbow smelt to our rivers.

Please join us when the day comes. Sign up for our SoundNet e-newsletter
to find out when this happens each spring.


More on Rainbow Smelt  (Osmerus mordax), is an anadromous fish (residing in saltwater and returning to freshwater to reproduce) found in both coastal and estuarine waters from Newfoundland to New Jersey. Smelt size ranges anywhere from 5 to 9 inches. They are a schooling species that is slender and silver with a large mouth and a deeply forked tail. Smelt use coastal rivers for spawning habitats especially shallow brooks and streams with turbulent water. Spawning occurs during the spring freshet (February to mid-March) when water temperatures are in the 30’s and 40’s (Fahrenheit). These low temperatures allow eggs to incubate properly and also allowing predation.


Adult Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax)

Mooring scars

Salem Sound Coastwatch - Smelt Habitats

In order to gather data on the health of the local Rainbow Smelt
population, Salem Sound Coastwatch is mapping and analyzing four historical spawning sites within the Salem Sound watershed using water temperature and water lever data oggers to study tidal influence and temperature. Habitat degradation, poor water quality, damming and overfishing are recent impacts that negatively affect these historical smelt spawning sites. Data gathered by the instruments will provide SSCW with crucial information regarding whether or not these sites are adequate for smelt reproduction.


More on smelt:

Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) spawning habitat on the Gulf of Maine coast of Massachusetts. 2006. Technical Report TR-30, MA DMF, DFWELE, EOEA


Biological Report from 1989 on Rainbow Smelt U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1989. Species profiles: life history and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrares. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Biol. Rep.82(11). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TR EL-82-4