What Is a Shiner Bait Fish?

by Patricia Arnett
A shiner is a type of minnow used to catch larger predatory fish.

A shiner is a type of minnow used to catch larger predatory fish.

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A shiner is a small silver fish used to catch larger predatory fish. Part of the minnow family, the fish get their name from their shiny scales. Shiners are a popular live bait option among recreational fishermen. They can be used to catch several species of larger fish such as bass, trout and flounder.

Types of Shiners

Golden shiners are the most common bait fish sold in the United States. Their side scales can be silver or gold in color. The fins are yellow or light red. Golden shiners can grow up to 12 inches long; however, they typically remain smaller, at 2 to 6 inches in length. Common shiners are also popular bait fish. These fish are silver in color with an olive green back and a dark dorsal stripe. Breeding males have a pink coloring over their entire body. Common shiners can grow up to 8 inches in length, though the average length of a common shiner is approximately 2 to 4 inches.

Baiting Bait Fish

Shiner bait fish can be purchased from local bait shops or on-line retailers. They are available both live and frozen. Shiners can also be caught wild, which can save you money on the cost of bait. A trap is the most common way of catching shiners. Plastic and wire shiner traps can be purchased at bait and tackle shops. Bait the trap with either bread or cracker crumbs. Place the trap in a shallow area of a pond or stream with the open end facing downstream. The shiners will move upstream while feeding on the crumbs and be led into the trap.

Care in the Bait Bucket

Taking care of your live shiners is important because healthy lively bait fish will attract larger fish and increase your chances of a bite. Minnows and shiners are sensitive to heat, so keep them cool. Place your bait fish bucket in the shade while fishing. Change the water in the bait fish bucket when the water gets dirty. Dirty water has a reduced amount of oxygen, which can kill fish. Overcrowding in the bucket can also deplete oxygen levels, so do not to put too many shiners in one bucket.


Baiting the hook with a live shiner requires a bit of practice. Be careful not to break the fish's neck while baiting. Push the pointed end of the hook into the fish's back in front of the dorsal fin. It is important to puncture just the edge of the skin. Try not to push the hook into the fish's spine. This baiting method will keep the shiner bait alive longer.

About the Author

Based in Ohio, Patricia Arnett has been a professional freelance writer since August 2009. She is knowledgeable in a wide range of fields and has written more than 80 articles that have been published on various online websites. Arnett also reviews and edits newsletters for the American Postal Workers Union.

Photo Credits

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