From 3rd Trip: Belmont Pier, Long Beach

Family: Atherinidae (Silversides)

Genus and Species: Atherinopsis californiensis

Description: The body of the jacksmelt is elongate and somewhat compressed. The head is oblong and compressed, and the eyes and mouth are small. The color is greenish blue above, silver below, with a metallic stripe bordered with blue extending the length of the body. Jacksmelt, topsmelt, and California grunion are members of the silversides family and are not considered true smelt. These three species look very similar except for the location of the first dorsal fin. In the jacksmelt, the first dorsal fin is forward of a line drawn perpendicular to the vent (anus); in the topsmelt, it is just about over the vent and in the grunion, it is behind the vent.

Range: Jacksmelt occur from Santa Maria Bay, Baja California, to Yaquina, Oregon. Jacksmelt are found in California bays and ocean waters throughout the year. They are schooling fish which prefer shallow water less than 100 feet and are most common in 5 to 50 foot depths.

Natural History: Jacksmelt feed on small crustaceans. Jacksmelt that are 13 to 15 inches long are 8 or 9 years old. A 16 inch, 1 pound male was 11 years old. They will spawn first when 2 years old and about 6 inches long. The spawning season extends from October to March. Large masses of eggs, about the size of small BB’s, are attached to shallow water seaweeds by means of long filaments.

Fishing Information: Jacksmelt are one of the most common fishes taken by pier anglers, but are also caught in the surf. Sometimes a number of coiled up worms are found in the flesh. These are intermediate stages of spine headed worms, the adult of which are harmful to sharks, pelicans and other fish predators. The worms are harmless to humans when the fish is thoroughly cooked.

Other Common Names: silverside, horse smelt, blue smelt, California smelt.

Largest Recorded: 17.5 inches; no weight recorded; however, a jacksmelt 16 inches long weighed 1 pound.

Habitat: Bay Environment

About the Author

Sean loves to fish in Southern California and this site is his journal of his adventures in fishing. He started fishing when he was a little guy with his dad David, and has continued to this day with his family. In his day job, Sean has been a graphic designer for over 15 years, designing everything from in-store displays and signage for supermarkets to e-commerce auction sites for an online consumer electronics company. He was a web and graphic designer then later an art director for McMullen Argus Publishing (Primedia), building and working on sites for Lowrider Magazine and Super Chevy, plus 30 other automotive magazine sites. Sean seized the opportunity to teach other aspiring designers - a passion that took him first to Learning Tree University and then to Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA, where he has been an integral part of the renowned digital arts department for more than ten years. Throughout his teaching career, Sean maintained a freelance business, designing for clients including the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards), Image Comics and many more. See his work at http://www.glumace.com.