The Atherine, unlike the true smelt, is scarce on the East coast and abundant on our southern shores. It has a little family all to itself, named by Dr. Gunther Atherinidae. It is a widely distributed little fish, but is not common in Scotland ; and though, as I have said, rare on the East coast, is, I am assured by a careful observer, very abundant in Lowestoft Harbour. Great quantities are found in some of the Irish bays and harbours.
These little fish have some quaint local names. In the north of Ireland they are Portaferry chickens, pincher being another Irishism having the same meaning. Sand smelt is, perhaps, the most common name ; they are also called silver-sides and, in Cornwall, quid. The atherine does not, like the true smelt, push up far into fresh water, not going, as a rule, beyond the flow of the tides. It spawns during the summer close to the shore. Probably the greater portion of the shoals retire into deep water in the winter. With regard to fishing for smelts on the surface, in midwater, and at the bottom, I have written all that is necessary on the subject on pp. 179 and 206. It will be remembered that these little fish sometimes afford sport to the fly fisher, and are caught on the most delicate of tackle. Their excellence on the table also recommends them, but, as to this, the atherine is very inferior to the cucumber smelt.