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: a type of small fish that can be eaten
Full Definition of SMELT
: any of a family (Osmeridae) of small bony fishes that closely resemble the trouts in general structure, live along coasts and ascend rivers to spawn or are landlocked, and have delicate oily flesh with a distinctive odor and taste
Any of certain slender, silvery, carnivorous, food fishes (family Osmeridae) having a small fleshy fin. Smelts live in cold northern seas, and most species spawn a short distance upstream. The American smelt (Osmerus mordax), introduced from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, is the largest smelt, about 15 in. (38 cm) long. The European smelt (O. eperlanus) is similar. Among Pacific species are the rainbow herring, capelin, and eulachon, or candlefish, which is so oily at spawning time that it can be dried and burned as a candle. Silversides (seegrunion) and other unrelated fishes are sometimes called smelts.