Marine Smelt General
Marine smelt are small and slender saltwater fish, including capelin and surf smelt, harvested by many coastal cultures. Archeological remains identifying human use found smelt from Oregon to Alaska .
Capelin are known to have been eaten by the Beothuk, East and West Greenlanders, Belcher Island Inuit, Coast Straits Salish and Labrador Inuit (including Hopedale), the latter considering them their most important fish [1-7]. The Micmac (Mi’kmaq) of Newfoundland and Richibucto, Labrador Inuit (including Makkovik) and Inuit of Southern Greenland are also reported to consume capelin [8-13].
Capelin are caught in spring and summer months, most notably in May, most often with scoop nets [3, 4, 6]. The Western Greenlanders made their scoop nets of plaited sinew thread [3, 5]. The Coast Straits Salish caught what may have been capelin by ladling them up with a canoe paddle or spading them into the beach with flat sticks . Inuit of Labrador gathered them along sandy shores .
Belcher Island Inuit consumed capelin boiled and raw . The Coast Straits Salish prepared what may have been capelin in various ways. They roasted it in one piece on a split spit and also dried it . The West Greenlanders preserved it drying it whole and storing it in seal skin bags .
Inuit of Southern Greenland scooped capelin from the water in early summer. They dried them whole and stored them for winter consumption [8, 12]. In some West Greenland communities, the family that carried the most capelin onto the rocks to dry received the most, regardless of the success of that family’s fishermen in catching the fish .
Surf smelt were available to groups of the northwest coast [14-16], which included the Squamish , the Quileute , the Coast Salish [19-21], the coastal Dene , the Siuslaw and Coosan of the western US coast  and the Tlingit [23, 24]. Surf smelt were also available to the Indigenous People of Puget Sound , the Coast Strait Salish, and the southwestern coast Salish .
Northwest coast groups caught surf smelt with dip nets (bags of netting attached to a wooden frame with a handle) as the fish arrived to spawn on the beach [14, 15]. The Coast Salish collected smelt in bays and estuaries during spawning season by raking the fish into their canoes [19, 21]; women hung and smoked the whole, fresh fish and placed them in airtight baskets to be stored for winter . The Squamish were reported to have fished for smelt in the Point Grey area in summer; they used nets made from stinging nettles . The Tlingit consumed smelt fried or barbecued ; the fish was not preserved .
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2. Hawkes EW: The Labrador Eskimo. In: The Labrador Eskimo. edn. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau; 1916.
3. Kleivan I: West Greenland Before 1950. In: Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 5: Arctic. edn. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution; 1984: 595-609.
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6. Suttles WP: Coast Salish and Western Washington Indians. In: Coast Salish and Western Washington Indians The Economic Life of the Coast Salish of Haro and Rosario Straits. edn. New York & London: Garland Publishing Inc.; 1974.
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8. Birket-Smith K: The Struggle For Food. In: Eskimos. edn. Rhodos: The Greenland Society with the support of The Carlsberg Foundation and The Ministry for Greenland; 1971: 75-113.
9. Mackey MGA, Bernard L, Smith BS: Country Food Consumption by Selected Households of the Micmac in Conne River Newfoundland in 1985-86. In.; 1986.
10. Mackey MGA, Orr RDM: An Evaluation of Household Country Food Use in Makkovik, Labrador, July 1980 - June 1981. Arctic 1987, 40(1):60-65.
11. Speck FG, Dexter RW: Utilization of animals and plants by the Micmac Indians of New Brunswick. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 1951, 41(8):250-259.
12. Sinclair HM: The Diet of Canadian Indians and Eskimos. British Journal of Nutrition 1952, 6:69-82.
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20. Hill-Tout C: Food and Cooking. In: British North America: The Far West, the Home of the Salish and Dene. edn. Edited by Hill-Tout C. London: Archibald Constable; 1907: 89-108.
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Marine Smelt General
Marine smelt, like the capelin (Mallotus villosus) and the surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus), are saltwater representative of a family of small, slender, and silvery schooling fish, which also include species that are exclusively found in freshwater like the pond smelt (Hypomesus olidus) and others that are searun and only spawn in freshwater, like the rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) and the eulachon (Thaleichthys pacificus) .
The capelin (Mallotus villosus) occurs along the North American Atlantic coast, from the Gulf of Maine, and around along the Arctic coast up to the Pacific coast of Alaska and British Columbia. They have an adipose fin, small fleshy fin located between the dorsal fin and the tail. They are olive-green on the back and rarely grow longer than 25 cm. Capelin live in cold, deep ocean waters, but migrate towards the coast to spawn in the spring. They commonly die after spawning. Capelin feeds on small marine invertebrates, but also on small fish. They are preyed upon by a variety of marine fish, bird, and mammal species .
The surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus) The surf smelt is most closely related to the pond smelt, both members of the same genus. They occur in North America along the Pacific coast, from California to Alaska. They have an adipose fin, a small fleshy fin located between the dorsal fin and the tail. They are light green or brownish on the back and rarely grow longer than 30 cm. Surf smelts live in coastal waters, sometimes brackish, and spawn inshore on sand or gravel beaches. They are rarely found in freshwater. They mainly feed on small crustaceans and their predators include the Chinook salmon .
1. Wooding FH: Lake, river and sea-run fishes of Canada. Madeira Park, BC, Canada: Harbour Publishing; 1997.
2. "Mallotus villosus" [http://eol.org/pages/205084/details]
3. "Hypomesus pretiosus Girard, 1854." [http://eol.org/pages/220326/details]