SMELT, or Sparling ( Osmerus). It inhabits the seas of the northern parts of Europe, and is found as far south as the Seine. They are also taken in the Straits of Magellan, and of a most surprising size, some measuring twenty inches in length and eight in circumference. They ascend the rivers. In certain rivers they appear a long time before they spawn, being taken in great abundance in November, December, and January in the Thames and Dee, but in others not till February; and in March and April they spawn; after which they all return to the salt water, and are not seen in the rivers till the next season. They never come into the Mersey as long as there is any snow water in the river.
These fish vary greatly in size ; but the largest we ever heard of was thirteen inches long, and weighed half a pound. They have a very particular scent, whence is derived one of their English names, smelt, i. e. smell it. That of sparIing.'which is used in Wales and the north of England, is taken from the French sperlan. It is a fish of a very beautiful form and colour; the head is transparent, and the skin in general so thin, that with a good microscope the blood may be observed to circulate. The irides are silvery; the pupil of a full black; the under jaw is the longest; in the front of the upper jaw are four large teeth; those in the sides of both are small; in the roof of the mouth are two rows of teeth; on the tongue two others of large teeth. The scales are small, and readily drop off; the tail consists of nineteen rays, and is forked. The colour of the back is whitish, with a cast of green, beneath which it is varied with blue, and then succeeds a beautiful gloss of a silvery hue.
Smelts rise to a shrimp, pieces of lobster, blood worms, and also red worms. " You must have," says Mr. Salter, " an exceeding strong and flexible top to your rod, strong gut line, heavy float, and from ten to twelve or more hooks, about eight or nine inches apart." A long line is necessary, as smelts are always found in deep water. We are told also on the same authority, " that the best place to catch smelts, near London, is in the canal that runs from Limehouse-hole to Blackwall, through the isle of dogs : they are also sometimes taken otf the logs lying in the Thames, and in all the wet-docks below London Bridge. You may fish for smelts from July to November and December: very early and late is the most successful time.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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