SPRAT, a marine fish (Clupea sprattus), named " garvie " in Scotland, one of the smallest species of the genus Clupea or herrings, rarely exceeds 5 in. in length, and occurs in large shoals on the Atlantic coasts of Europe. Sprats are very often confounded with young herrings, which they much resemble, but can always be distinguished by the following characters: they do not possess any teeth on the palate (vomer), like herrings; their gill-covers are smooth, without the radiating striae which are found in the shad and the pilchard; the anal fin consists of .from seventeen to twenty rays, and the lateral line of forty-seven or forty-eight scales. The ventral fins are slightly anterior to the origin of the dorsal fin; and the spine consists of from fortyseven to forty-nine vertebrae. The sprat spawns in the open sea from February to May and is only occasionally captured in the ripe condition. Its eggs are buoyant and pelagic and easily recognized. The sprat is one of the more important foodfishes on account of the immense numbers which are caught when the shoals approach the coasts. They are somewhat capricious, however, as regards the place and time of their appearance, the latter falling chiefly in the first half of winter. They are caught with the seine or with the bag-net in the tideway. Large quantities are consumed fresh, but many are pickled or smoked and others prepared like anchovies. Frequently the captures are so large that the fish can be used as manure only.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)