Shiners as Live Bait: What Fish Eat Shiners (Complete Guide) | Freshwater Fishing Advice (2022)

Shiners as Live Bait: What Fish Eat Shiners (Complete Guide) | Freshwater Fishing Advice (1)

Many bait shops carry them, but what are shiners good for? In this article, we will explore the wide range of fishing applications you can use shiners as bait for and which species of fish they will catch.

What can you catch with shiners as bait?In states and waterways where it is illegal, you can catch catfish, crappie, yellow perch, largemouth bass, striped bass, walleye, and pike using shiners as bait. There are a number of ways to fish with shiners for each of these species which will be explained.

In water where shiners are naturally occurring forage, they are preyed upon by a full spectrum of predatory game fish. Shiners school up in medium-to-large schools in large bodies of water for protection from attack. Just about anything that swims eats shiners.

Walleye, catfish, bullheads, pike, chain pickerel, bass, striped bass, yellow perch, crappie, and trout will readily eat shiners if they are present. As such, shiners are an excellent live or dead bait option if legal in your state or local waterway.

In this article, I will present as much information as I can regarding fishing with shiners, how to target various species with shiners, and some tips on acquiring and rigging shiners for fishing. You should know all the facts before you buy a dozen of these next time you’re at the bait shop mulling over which bait you should buy.

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What are Shiners?

Shiners refer to a whole range of small baitfish with shiny or “silver-ish” coloration along their sides. Shiners are commonly found in large quantities in many eastern lakes and rivers. They are also stocked heavily through much of the continent as prime forage for large game fish as well as mosquito-control.

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There are a variety of shiners species you may come across but the most commons are golden shiners, common shiners, red-sided shiners, and the eastern shiner. Feeding on insect larvae and zooplankton, shiners are commonly less than 3 inches in length with some golden shiners reaching up to 10 inches in length. Because of their small size, abundance, and protein-content, shiners are a key food source for many gamefish.

Fishing with Shiners as Bait

What Can You Catch with Shiners

1. Largemouth Bass

Perhaps the one species of fish most anglers associate with shiners are largemouth bass. In the realm of live bait for bass, bluegills and shiners are atop the mountain. You can use 3-4 inch shiners as bait for all sizes of bass but if you want to catch trophy fish, go for shiners 6 inches and up.

You can troll along weed lines or let the bait free swim. I recommend hooking the shiner through either the upper or lower lip only though you can also hook them through both lips or behind the dorsal fin in the back.

2. Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass will also readily consume shiners. Since they have a much smaller mouth than largemouth bass, focus on shiners under 4 inches in length. Smallmouth bass frequent many of the same habitat-types as largemouth (under docks, weed lines, submerged timber) but to really have some exciting smallmouth fishing, drop shiners near rocks and underwater boulders. Bass will be here chasing baitfish and crayfish between the rocks.

3. Striped Bass

Striped bass are the larger, more nocturnal relative of largemouth bass. Capable of reaching a great size, these bass are huge consumers of schooling baitfish to include alewives, shad, and shiners. Striped bass are often hybridized with white bass to produce what is referred to as “wipers”. To fish for striped bass or wipers with shiners, any sized shiner will do but for truly large stripers, go with golden shiners greater than 6 inches.

(Video) Fishing with LIVE Bait (Golden Shiners)

4. Walleye

Walleye are a prime predator of shiners. In lakes where shiners school up in large shoals, walleye will often trail these shoals as they move looking to pick off the weak and careless. A great size range of shiner for use as walleye bait is between 3-5 inches. Walleye usually won’t mess with any bait much larger than 5 inches. Hook shiners through the lip or back and drop them off near the outer edges of large bait schools you locate with your fish finder.

5. Catfish

Catfish love eating baitfish and shiners are certainly up there with the most desired catfish food right behind shad and bluegills. Channel and blue catfish will eat both live and dead cut shiners so shiners 3-6 inches in length are great options. Flatheads prefer whole bait so keep your large shiners intact. Flatheads will eat live or dead shiners so that doesn’t matter much.

6. Yellow Perch

Yellow perch can be caught on small shiners if presented right. Perch are smaller gamefish so your best bet is to use shiners 1-3 inches in length and drop them mid-way down dock pilings and above deep cover like boulders. Small yellow perch won’t mess with shiners so you’ll only be targeting big yellow perch with this method. Just understand, you’ll likely catch more small bass and catfish, than you will yellow perch with small shiners.

Shiners as Live Bait: What Fish Eat Shiners (Complete Guide) | Freshwater Fishing Advice (2)

7. Crappie

(Video) How to Fish with Shiners - Live Bait

Like yellow perch, crappie can be caught on small shiners if presented right. Crappie are smaller gamefish so your best bet is to use shiners 1-3 inches in length and drop them mid-way down dock pilings and above deep cover like boulders.

Small crappie won’t mess with shiners so you’ll only be targeting big black or white crappie with this method. Just understand, you’ll likely catch more small bass and catfish, than you will yellow crappie with small shiners.

8. Northern Pike

Northern pike are aggressive, “toothy” fish that have a reputation for devouring anything that moves around them including other pike about their same size. It stands to reason, the defenseless shiner would be on the menu and they certainly are.

For small pike, go with shiners 2-4 inches in length. For large pike, shiners above 6 inches are the way to go. Focus your shiner along weed edges and off prominent points where the water sharply drops off.

9. Chain Pickerel

I can’t tell you how many chain pickerel I caught growing up ice fishing with tip-ups and golden shiners. I found shiners in the 2-4 inch range work best. You can use shiners during the summertime as well for pickerel hiding along weed lines, edges of lily pads, and submerged timber.

10. Trout

(Video) How To Catch SALTWATER Fish On FRESHWATER BAIT (SHINERS)

Believe it or not, large trout will also eat shiners. Big brook, brown, and rainbow trout can be caught using small shiners in the 2-4 inch range. Big lake trout will consume all sizes of shiner as well. You can jig dead shiners, troll them, or simply allow shiners to free swim.

Live Shiners or Dead Shiners: Better Bait Option?

Live shiners and dead shiners will work as fishing bait. I think it largely depends on the species of fish you’re trying to catch. For example, trout, bass, and pike prefer live bait. Therefore, you will have much greater success using live shiners where legal. Some states ban the use of live baitfish so you may not have a choice.

Catfish, striped bass, and walleye can be caught on both live and dead shiners. Cutting a large shiner in half is a great option for channel catfish and striped bass. For walleye, rig a dead shiner onto a jig-head.

How to Rig a Shiner on a Hook

There are a number of ways to rigging a shiner on a hook. I would strongly recommend a standard bait hook or octopus hook when fishing with shiners for most species. For catfish, though, go with a circle hook.

For 3-inch shiners, a 1 to 4/0 hook is ideal. For shiners in the 8-10” range, go with a 5/0 or 6/0 hook. There are 3 ways to hook the shiner. Through just the lower lip for the healthiest baitfish but most challenging to cast with.

You could hook through both the top and bottom lip which is better for casting but a little worse for the health of the baitfish. You could also hook the shiner through the back behind the dorsal fin which injured the shiner but doesn’t affect its breathing. This is the best for distance casting.

Cost of Shiners

Shiners, purchased from your local bait shop, are not too expensive. You can usually get a dozen healthy 3-4 inch shiners for under $6. Purchasing smaller shiners can be even cheaper.I was at a bait shop myself on Sunday and 1-2 inch shiners were $2.50 for dozen.

Not a bad deal. I would advise you though if you are going to fish with baitfish in the 1-2 inch range, opt instead for fathead minnows. They will often out-fish small shiners and are less expensive. I’ve never seen large shiners in bait shops over 6 inches. I’m sure some stores will carry them but you’ll be better off catching your own which I will explain the net section.

(Video) How To Catch Baitfish- Golden Shiner Sight Fishing- Underwater Footage

How to Legally Obtain Shiners

There are two ways to obtain shiners. You could buy them at a bait shop or catch your own. Most states will allow the use of shiners as long as they are caught from the same watershed or water-system as you’ll be fishing.

Game wardens often will want to see receipts proving you purchased them locally to prevent “bucket biology” and the spread of fish diseases. You could also catch your own using a standard minnow trap, a casting net or simply a small corn or worm on a hook.

FAQs

Shiners as Live Bait: What Fish Eat Shiners (Complete Guide) | Freshwater Fishing Advice? ›

Walleye, catfish, bullheads, pike, chain pickerel, bass, striped bass, yellow perch, crappie, and trout will readily eat shiners if they are present. As such, shiners are an excellent live or dead bait option if legal in your state or local waterway.

What is the best bait for shiners? ›

Chumming with oatmeal, casting the flakes over shallow, weedy flats will bring schools of shiners into the area and get them feeding. Then, impaling several oatmeal flakes on a tiny hook, or balling bread around the tines of the treble hook is the basis of shiner fishing.

How do you fish with shiners? ›

Fishing with Live shiners for Bass - The best Trick you need to know!

Where is the best place to hook a shiner? ›

Shiners will live longer when hooked properly. One recommended way to hook a shiner is through the bottom lip and nostril. Be careful to not go through the middle of the nostrils. The brain is located there.

How do you rig live shiners? ›

How to Fish with Shiners - Live Bait - YouTube

What kind of fish eat shiners? ›

Walleye, catfish, bullheads, pike, chain pickerel, bass, striped bass, yellow perch, crappie, and trout will readily eat shiners if they are present. As such, shiners are an excellent live or dead bait option if legal in your state or local waterway.

What can I feed shiners? ›

Juvenile and adult golden shiners feed primarily on zooplankton and aquatic insects, while the newly hatched fry (baby fish) are omnivorous. Golden shiners readily accept commercial fish feeds, and catfish feed is a close match to their dietary requirements.

What's the best way to hook a shiner for bass fishing? ›

Through the Top Lip (Upper Mouth)

In my opinion, the best way to hook a shiner is through the top lip. This allows the bait to swim naturally and leads to an excellent hook-up ratio. With the point of your hook, insert it into the open mouth of the shiner in the fleshy part between the upper lip and the brain.

What is the difference between shiners and minnows? ›

While technically part of the minnow family, Shiners are considerably larger than “True Minnows.” They are usually at least double the size of the common Bluntnose or Fathead Minnow, with the most common species being the Common, Emerald, and Golden Shiners.

Does bigger shiners catch bigger bass? ›

While we do think it's best to purchase them from a local bait shop, sometimes that's not always feasible. While wild shiners will be more active in the water, farm raised shiners can still work great for catching a trophy sized bass.

Is live bait better than lures? ›

Bait is highly effective because fish are more attracted to the real live prey you're delivering. They latch on with gusto, improving the chances of a deep hooked fish on the end of your line – one who is less likely to fall off. (A deep-hooked fish is a con if you're doing catch and release, however.)

How do you hook a shiner without killing it? ›

How To HOOK A MINNOW Without Killing It - 3 Best Ways - YouTube

How big do shiners get? ›

The common shiner (Luxilus cornutus) is a freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae, found in North America. It ranges in length between 4 and 6 inches, although they can reach lengths of up to 8 inches.

How do you attach Pike to Shiner? ›

Shiners Under A Bobber for Winter Pike / How To Rig Live ... - YouTube

What is the difference between shiners and minnows? ›

While technically part of the minnow family, Shiners are considerably larger than “True Minnows.” They are usually at least double the size of the common Bluntnose or Fathead Minnow, with the most common species being the Common, Emerald, and Golden Shiners.

Will shiners reproduce in a pond? ›

In ponds that draw down, golden shiners can spawn once and have lots of eggs each spring when water is highest.

What kind of hook do you use for shiners? ›

The size of the kahle hook can range from a size 2/0 to a size 4/0, which is determined by the size of the shiner. In many cases, a 2/0 kahle style hook works best for a variety of wild shiner sizes.

Are shiners and minnows the same? ›

The North American cyprinid minnows comprise numerous species of small freshwater fishes that are known by such names as shiner (genera Notemigonus and Notropis) and bluntnose and fathead minnow (Pimephales). Many are abundant, and a number are valuable as live bait; sometimes they are cultured for this purpose.

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