Atherinops affinis

The Topsmelt has a slender and elongated silver body with a distinct silver stripe that runs the full length of the mid-body.  Size of this particular species can get up to 37 cm.  The geographic range goes from British Columbia to the Gulf of California while the local habitat includes sandy beaches, estuaries, and bays (1).  The Atherinops affinis feeds on small crustaceans and the fish school near shore in which they are fished both commercially and by sport. An interesting fact includes that Topsmelts can live in salt ponds twice as salty as the sea (2).    Studies based upon phenotypic plasticity have been conducted on this species since the fish have a broad geographic range and limited ability to disperse (3).


  • Estuaries and Bays


(1)“Topsmelt.” Monterey Bay Aquarium, Accessed on 19 November 2018.

(2) Snow, John. “Topsmelt.” Mexico – Fish, Marine Life, Birds and Terrestrial Life, Accessed 19 November 2018.

(3) O’Reilly, K. M., and M. H. Horn. 2004. Phenotypic variation among populations of Atherinops affinis (Atherinopsidae) with insights from a geometric morphometric analysis. Journal of Fish Biology 64:1117–1135.

(Photographs)  Peter J. Bryant, University of California, Irvine