Introduction: This feature is part of a series of articles being created as a group effort by members of the Streamer List to provide some background information on the species of forage fish we most commonly try to immitate with streamer patterns. Many thanks to the Lindsey Grandison for organizing this effort, and to the list members who contributed patterns and other information! If you'd like to include one of your favorite golden shiner patterns to this feature, we'd be pleased to include it. Just Drop us a line

Golden Shiner (Notemigonus cystoleucas)

This description of the Golden Shiner was submitted by Doug Saball

This is a well know species that is easily identified. Key characteristics are the strongly compressed rather elliptical body, a small pointed head, strongly downward curving lateral ling, a long sickle-shaped anal fin, and a thin scaleless keel on the midline of the belly behind the pelvic fins. The coloration is a dark olive-green on the back, becoming a golden-silver on the sides. With large adults a deep golden or brassy coloration is prominent. The fins are yellowish with the lower fins turning orange on breading males. Young golden shiners have a distinctive broad dark lateral band, more silvery than gold body, and their fins are transparent. (1,2)

Distribution: On the east coast of North America from the Maritime Provinces south to Florida and west to the Dakotas and Texas. Because of its wide use as bait, it has been introduced into many parts of the western United States to which it is not native. (2)

Habitat: The golden shiner is found in the quiet waters of lakes, ponds and sluggish rivers and streams. They prefer areas with thick vegetation and muddy bottoms. The golden shiner is usually found with such species as the chain pickerel, brown bullheads, yellow perch, and largemouth bass. (1,2)

Reproduction: The golden shiner spawns in late spring and summer. It scatters its adhesive eggs over submerged vegetative beds in quiet waters. Females are known to produce as much as 200,000 eggs in a season. The spawning season may last for the whole summer with several spawns throughout the season. Usually the first spawn is the largest. But this is dependent on specific areas, weather and water conditions. (1,2)

Age and Growth: The golden shiner reaches a maximum length of about 12 inches, however, some specimens have been collected that reach as large as 15 inches. (3) Typical adult golden shiners are 4 to 7 inches. It is a rapid grower usually reaching 2 to 3 inches in one year. However, in colder regions the golden shiner reaches maturity in its third summer, and may only be 3 inches. (1,2)

Food: The golden shiner eats an extremely diverse assortment of food. Its long fine gill rakes, long intestine, and strong grinding pharyngeal teeth equip it for feeding on all types of foods. It can strain microorganisms, digest cellulose-containing plants, and crush small mollusks. It eats alga, plant fragments, water fleas, insect larva, snails, clams, and occasionally small fish. (1)

Remarks: This species is primarily valuable as a forage food for game fish. Because it reproduces rapidly in ponds and its food consists largely of vegetation, it has often been stocked extensively as a forage fish. The golden shiner is one of the more commonly used baitfish in New England primarily because of its availability and silvery appearance. However, the golden shiner is difficult to keep alive in a bait bucket or on a hook. It is used locally to some degree as a "sewn-on shiner" in trolling for lake trout and salmon. (1)

Common Names: Golden shiner, roach, bream, butterfish, eastern golden shiner, American roach, American bream, sunfish, dace, bitterhead, chub, gudgeon, young shad, windfish, and goldfish. (2)


  1. Freshwater Fishes of New Hampshire, John F. Scarols, New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Division of Inland and Marine Fisheries, 1973.
  2. Freshwater Fishes of Canada, Bulletin 184, Scott, W.B., E.J. Crossman, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa 1973.
  3. General Limnological Survey of Brimfield Lake, Sturbridge, MA. US Army Corps of Engineers, Water Quality Laboratory, Barre Falls MA. Peter Trinchero, John Vierra, and Douglas Saball. 1982 (unpublished).

Pattern Listing

Contributed By: Pattern Name:
Lindsey Grandison Zwirz & Evans Golden Shiner
Lindsey Grandison Whitlock's Golden Shiner
Lindsey Grandison Bates Simple Golden Shiner
Roger Whitcomb NEK Golden Shiner
Chris DelPlato Cobbossee Shiner
Emmett Johnson E.J.'s Golden Shiner
Robb Nicewonger Golden Shiner
Stan Jakubaszek Oatman's Golden Shiner
Lindsey Grandison Thunder Creek Golden Shiner
Bob Petti Golden Shiner

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