It is easily distinguished by its deeply-cleft mouth, the angle of the gape being behind the eyes. The pointed snout extends beyond the lower jaw. The fish resembles a sprat in having a forked tail and a single dorsal fin, but the body is round and slender. The maximum length is 8 1/8 in.
Anchovies are abundant in the Mediterranean, and are regularly caught on the coasts of Sicily, Italy, France and Spain. The range of the species also extends along the Atlantic coast of Europe to the south of Norway. In winter it is common off Devon and Cornwall (Great Britain), but has not hitherto been caught in such numbers as to be of commercial importance.
Formerly they were caught in large numbers off the coast of the Netherlands in summer when they entered the Wadden Sea and Zuider Zee. After the closing of the Zuider Zee they were still found in the Wadden Sea until the 1960s. They were also caught in the estuary of the Scheldt.
There is reason to believe that the anchovies found at the western end of the English Channel in November and December are those which annually migrated from the Zuider Zee and Scheldt in autumn, returning thither in the following spring; they were assumed to form an isolated stock, for none come up from the south in summer to occupy the English Channel, though the species is resident on the coast of Portugal.
The explanation appears to be that the shallow and landlocked waters of the Zuider Zee, as well as the sea on the Dutch coast, become raised to a higher temperature in summer than any part of the sea about the British coasts, and that therefore anchovies were able to spawn and maintain their numbers in these waters.
Their reproduction and development were first described by a Dutch naturalist from observations made on the shores of the Zuider Zee. Spawning takes place in June and July, and the eggs, like those of the majority of marine fishes, are buoyant and transparent, but they are peculiar in having an elongated, sausage-like shape, instead of being globular. They resemble those of the sprat and pilchard in having a segmented yolk and there is no oil globule.
The larva hatch two or three days after the fertilization of the egg, and are minute and transparent. In August young specimens 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 in. in length have been taken in the Zuider Zee, and these must derived from the spawning of the previous summer.
There is no evidence to decide the question whether all the young anchovies as well as the adults leave the Zuider Zee in autumn, but, considering the winter temperature there, it is probable that they do. The eggs have also been obtained from the Bay of Naples, and near Marseilles, also off the coast of Holland, and once at least off the coast of Lancashire.
The occurrence of anchovies in the English Channel has been carefully studied at the laboratory of the Marine Biological Association at Plymouth. They were most abundant in 1889 and 1890. In the former year considerable numbers were taken off Dover in drift nets of small mesh used for the capture of sprats. In the following December large numbers were taken together with sprats at Torquay. In November 1890 a thousand of the fish were obtained in two days from the pilchard boats fishing near Plymouth; these were caught near the Eddystone.
Initial text came from 1911 encyclopedia