Lesser Sandeel

Fact File:

Common Name(s):
Lesser Sandeel

Scientific Name:
Ammodytes tobianus

Usual Size:

UK Record Weights from rod/line:


MAFF Minimum Size: Shore: Boat:

Long elongated body with a rounded cross-section. The head is elongated and pointed, with a sharp prominent lower jaw. The upper jaw is protrusible, and is able to open forward to form a tube. The roof of the mouth (palate) lacks teeth. Scales on the the belly form a chevron pattern. Scales in oblique skin ridges. Single low form dorsal fin, with very long base, composed of 49 to 58 rays. This starts in front of the tip of the pectoral fin, running down the back, almost to the tail fin.The anal fin is about half the length of the dorsal fin. Whilst the pelvic fins are absent, the pectoral fins are small and low set. The caudal fin is forked in shape. Colouration ranges from greenish yellow on the back, through to yellow on the upper sides, and then blending into a brilliant silver on the lower sides and belly.

Depending upon the race to which they belong, breeding usually occurs either between February to April, or from September through into November. Adults reach maturity in 1 to 2 years (8cm+), and may live for 7 years or so.

Found from the mid-tide level down to around 30m in inshore waters, with clean sandy bottoms. Often found swimming in large shoals, that will rapidly burrow in sand if alarmed.

Eats planktonic stages of fish, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates.

Found all around the coasts of the British Isles.

Additional Notes:
Raitt's Sandeel Ammodytes marinus

This species of sandeel is very similar to the Lesser Sandeel above. It is distinguished by the fact that the belly scales tend to be irregularly arranged, and by having no scales on the lobes of the tail. The dorsal fin is composed of some 56 to 63 rays, with the overall maximum length of the fish not exceeding 25cm. Colouration varies from the bluish green of the back, to the silvery sides and belly.

This is an offshore species of sandeel that breeds between November through into February, and may live anything up to 9yrs. It feeds upon worms, small crustaceans and plankton, including fish eggs and larvae.

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