The eulachon is a member of the smelt family, Osmeridae. It is one of the largest members of this family of small Pacific coast fish and has been important to the Chinook Indians. High in oil content (15 percent of its body weight), eulachon used to be dried and ﬁtted with wicks for use as candles.
Like other smelt, the eulachon is important as forage food for Pacific salmon, as well as for marine mammals and birds. It is also harvested or caught commercially and is a highly esteemed seafood by Native Americans from California to Alaska. Although some are hard-salted, these surf smelt are too delicate to be preserved and are generally smoked.