Post date: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 - 14:12
Updated date: 5/1/17
Big, Humungous, Huge Golden Shiner - Notemigonus crysoleucas


The golden shiner is a common species of minnow, very similar to, and closely related to, the fish called "Rudd" in Europe. Golden Shiners can, in fact, interbreed with Rudd to produce a hybrid. It is farmed for bait in many areas, and thrives in weedy lakes and ponds. In some regions, golden shiners are considered a fine panfish for the table, with large specimens being either fried or pickled.


Golden shiners can grow to over 1 pound in weight, but rarely reach anything near this size except in extremely fertile areas of the South. They are attractive forage fish for the larger aquatic predators, including black basses, pikes, gars, and walleyes. Birds such as loons, egrets, and kingfishers, as well as mammals like mink and otters, also rely on golden shiners as a staple food. Their high reproduction rate, fast growth, and large maximum size make them a tempting meal for any predator that is swift enough to catch them. An interesting facet of Golden Shiner behavior is their tendency to lay their eggs in the nest of larger, nest-guarding species - like bowfin. By laying their eggs in the nest of such an aggressive nest-guarder, the shiners ensure that their precious eggs won't be devoured by sunfish or other shiners. This symbiosis is a good illustration about how different populations of fish can be interconnected. Lakes with good bowfin populations can thus be expected to have larger and more stable golden shiner populations (although formal research hasn't been done on this connection, yet).


Adult golden shiners can withstand high temperatures and low oxygen levels. Smaller and younger fish are not nearly as robust as the larger adult shiners. This can allow golden shiners to be very successful in ponds, oxbows, sloughs, and lakes where larger predatory fish cannot survive. Even if all the small shiners in a pond die out, a few of the hardy adults can quickly repopulate the pond. Golden shiners are surface-oriented predators, feeding mostly on freshwater plankton like cyclops and daphnia, as well as small terrestrial and aquatic insects, water mites, crustaceans, and a variety of other small living foods.




Golden Shiners are usually a bright yellowish gold color, but don't rely solely on the color to identify them, as it can vary a lot. Coloration varies from all-silver, to all-yellow, dark coppery brown, or almost pink. Golden shiner have fins that range from clear to yellow to red, with the red coloration being most pronounced in males during breeding. Young golden shiners will often exhibit a dusky horizontal stripe, which is especially visible when a school of golden shiners is viewed from a distance. Young shiners tend to be more fusiliform than adults, which become more laterally compressed and taller-bodied as they age.





Golden shiners are easily caught with a minnow rig consisting of a tiny ice-fishing float, a small split shot, and a hook sized around #14. They usually hang out near the surface, so it's usually possible to catch them by fishing only 1-2 feet down. A quarter-inch chunk of angleworm is all that is needed for bait; fish this in gaps in the weeds or wherever you see schools of large shiners. Schools of golden shiners will often make very distinctive "dimples" on the water surface. A perceptive angler can use this to his or her advantage as it's a great way to prospect for both the shiners to catch and for the larger predators that invariably follow these schools around. Golden Shiners respond well to flies and are fun to catch on a light-action flyrod.



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