Jacksmelt

Species: Atherinopsis californiensis; from the Greek words ather (a spike or arrow) and ops (like), and californiensis (in reference to the geographic area).

Alternate Names: Smelt, horse smelt, blue smelt, and silverside.

Identification: Smelt-like shape and very similar to the topsmelt. They have two dorsal fins; the anal fin begins below the first dorsal fin. Their coloring is green above with a bright silvery stripe, and silver below.

Size: To 17 1/2 inches. In southern California, most of the jacksmelt that are caught from piers are under 12 inches in length -- although I've seen them up to about 14 inches. In northern California, a majority of jacksmelt appear to be over 12 inches in length

Range: From Santa Maria Bay, Baja California to Yaquina, Oregon.

Habitat: Bays and shallow oceanfront water, especially areas near rocky shorelines or jetties where there is a good current to sweep food out to the fish.

Piers: Jacksmelt are caught at virtually every pier in California. Larger jacksmelt are especially abundant at piers in bays, and even more so at bay piers adjacent to rocky points. Best bets: Oceanside Pier, Newport Pier, Huntington Beach Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier, Gaviota Pier, Pismo Beach Pier, Port San Luis Pier, Santa Cruz Wharf, Pillar Point Harbor Pier, San Francisco Municipal Pier, Berkeley Pier, Elephant Rock Pier, Fort Baker Pier, Lawson Landing Pier (Tomales Bay), Tides Wharf (Bodega Bay), Commercial Street Dock (Eureka), and the "B" Street Pier (Crescent City).

Bait and Tackle: Two main riggings are used. The first is a simple snag line made with several small hooks, either left bare, or to which colored yarn or cloth has been attached. This is commonly used in southern California and the angler simply jigs the leader up and down trying to attract and snag the fish. In northern California, a leader is usually made with six to eight small hooks spaced every six inches apart. A Styrofoam float or large bobber is attached above the hooks. Each hook is baited with a very small piece of pile worm or bloodworm and the outfit is allowed to drift with the current. The result is often 3-6 fish caught at one time. (Remember, in San Francisco Bay you can only attach three hooks to your line.)

Food Value: A tasty fish when pan fried although there are a lot of small bones.

Comments: For their size, jacksmelt put up a terrific fight. Many anglers have been startled to have a jacksmelt hit a bait at full throttle and then later surprised to realize that such a small fish has put up such a terrific battle.