Smaller, but even tastier than the sardine
Sprat is a small and slender fish that can grow up to 5 inches (13 cm) in length. It is most common in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea and in the western part of the Black Sea. The fishing season for sprat is winter.
English: sprat, brisling, garvie, skipper
Italian: papalina, renga, sarangina, spratto, palaziola
Croatian: papalina, sardelina, šarak, gavica
Slovene: papalina, sprat
French: sprat, amelette, esprot, harenguet, menuise
Spanish: espadin, alatxa, amploya, collaca
Portuguese: espadilha, lavadilha, enchovagem
Turkish: çaça, palatika
German: Breitling, Brisling, Sprott, Sprotte
Even smaller than the sardine
This small and slender fish can reach up to 5 inches (13 cm) in length – less than the sardine and even less than the anchovy. Its back is bluish, with the dark tone softening towards the middle and gradually changing into a white-silver tone at the abdomen.
Sprat likes to stay in shallow waters
Shoals of sprats like to stay in shallow waters with lower salinity, so they are most common in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea. Larger populations than those in the Adriatic Sea stick to the shallow continental shelf off the west coast of the Black Sea.
Fingerlings are particularly fond of estuaries
In terms of reproduction, the sprat is a lively species with a lengthy period of reproductive activity (from November to April in the Adriatic Sea) and several consecutive spawnings. Fingerlings are particularly fond of estuaries, where fresh water brings in the nutrients necessary for the development of zooplankton, on which they feed. The Kvarner Gulf, with the estuary of the river Raša, is the traditional spawning ground for sprats, as are the delta channels of the river Po on the Italian side.
Rare guest at the fish markets in Slovenia
Slovenian fishmongers rarely supply sprats. They are often mixed in with smaller sardines and also sold as such, with sellers not telling the two apart. Its lovely white flesh has a delicate flavour and due to its slender body, the sprat is usually not filleted, but rather rolled in flour and fried.
Smoking and canning sprat
In countries around the North and Baltic Seas, smoking and canning sprats is an important part of the food industry. Swedes and Norwegians marinate sprats in brine and preserve them in jars. The Belgians and the Dutch lightly smoke them, then eat the peeled and cleaned sprats on a slice of buttered black bread. Germans from Kiel cure them with warm smoke, and then eat them up without cleaning or peeling them. Poles use them to make a spread or simply deep freeze and export them (so we can buy them at the supermarket). Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians put preserved sweet-and-sour fillets on slices of rye bread, cover them with pieces of hard-boiled eggs, and lastly sprinkle a generous amount of chopped onions on top to help them get through the long winter nights.