Mediterranean Sand Smelt - Atherina Hepsetus


Latin: Atherina Hepsetus

English: Mediterranean Sand Smelt

German: Der Große Ährenfisch

Italian: Latterino Sardaro

Spanish: El Chucleto

Croatian: Gavun, Brfun

About: Mediterranean Sand Smelt is rather long, slender and somewhat flattened. The mouth is protrusive, facing upward with small teeth. The head and the body are covered with scales.

Mediterranean Sand Smelt is blue-grey on the back, blue-silver on the sides, transitioning to the silverish color on the bottom, with distinctive longitudinal light blue stripe from the head to the tail. Depending on the angle and location, this stripe can be almost white.

Eyes are large and clear white. Maximum length is around 20cm, with average length around 15cm. Atherina Hepsetus is gregarious species, feeding on small copepods and crustaceans.

In Mediterranean see, it spawns from December to May, depending on the location.

mediterranean sand smelt

Photo of Atherina Hepsetus (Wikipedia) by Stefano Guerrieri.
Note: photo is released into the public domain. However, we strongly believe that it's author deserves a credit for such nice photo! :)

Habitat: It is common in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Caspian Sea. It also occurs in Atlantic, from Spain to Morocco.

It is pelagic species often found in littoral areas, near the shore, entering marine lagoons and estuaries.

Fishing period: In recreational fishing, it is almost never prime fishing target. It can be caught year long, but much better during warmer months.

Fishing rigs and tackle: Although rather small, Mediterranean Sand Smelt can be caught on small hook using various baits like small prawns (but, really, really small prawns), small chucks of fish meat, bread-cheese paste and similar.

When found in larger schools, fishing can be surprising since entire school can starts to feed, grabbing anything in its path.

However, most of the time, if caught, it is usually just a bycatch. Commercially, it is caught in coastal beach seines, gill nets and liftnets.

Note: Mediterranean Sand Smelt is great bait for many predatory species, especially when alive. That is why it is good thing to 'bribe' kids to catch few of these as they can be often found in ports and harbors, too. When combined with live prawns and live mullets, live smelts are excellent bait on longlines, rods and reels, handlines, as a bait during trolling etc.

Cuisine: Meat is white, tender and has good taste, especially when combined with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and parsley. However, due to small size, Mediterranean Sand Smelt is most often fried in oil. Larger specimen can be prepared as part of mixed fish stew, baked or even barbequed.