E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Osmerus mordax Steindachner & Kner, 1870
Pacific Rainbow Smelt
Family: Osmeridae

© Diane Williamson  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #13450)

Source: Distribution of Osmerus mordax as compiled by Aquamaps
E-Fauna's interactive maps for fish are not yet available.

Species Information

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 8-11; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 12 - 16; Vertebrae: 63 - 68. Adipose small, sickle shaped. Olive green above, shading to silvery below, a bright clearly bounded longitudinal silvery band, becoming dark in preserved specimens; speckled with black on top of head, chin and upper part of body, more plentifully along mid-dorsal line.

Source: FishBase. McAllister, D.E. 1990.


Species Biology

Inhabits brackish water of estuaries, lagoons, coastal shallows and bays, and fresh water in lowland and piedmont rivers. A schooling species that inhabits lakes or inshore coastal waters (Ref. 1998). Pelagic at the sea where it occurs at 4-8 m depth. In the spring, it leaves the sea or the lake and ascends freshwater streams to spawn. Some remain in fresh water throughout their lives; those that enter the sea stay within 8 to 10 km of the shore and probably do not stray far along the coast from the estuary. Spawns in rapids, in clear water, over stone-gravel bottom and at depth of 0.2-0.5 m. Possibly found up to 425 m depth. Young-of-the-year feed mostly on copepods and cladocerans, also rotifers, eggs and algae; adults feed on small crustaceans, fishes and shellfish, also squid, worms, and various insects. Feeding virtually ceases during spawning. Females grow faster, get bigger and live longer than males. Pelagic-neritic; anadromous; freshwater; brackish; marine; depth range 0 - 290 m. Polar.

Source: FishBase. McAllister, D.E. 1990.



North Pacific and Arctic: Wonsan, North Korea and the Sea of Okhotsk to Barkley Sound, British Columbia, north to the Bering Sea and the Arctic Estuaries and coastal waters of European and Siberian shores of Arctic ocean from White Sea to Chukota in eastern Siberia.

Source: FishBase. McAllister, D.E. 1990.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2019. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2020-07-08 11:14:30 PM]
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