A member of the Hiodontidae family, the mooneye is a close relative and very similar in appearance to the better known goldeye (see). It is most important as forage for assorted predator species. Its flesh is soft and bony and of no human food value, and it is not a target of anglers. Though often called a herring or a shad, it is neither.
IdentificationThe mooneye is a small fish whose compressed body is deep in proportion to its length and is covered with large, loose scales. Dark blue to blue green over the back, it is silvery on the sides and tapers to white on the belly. It has a small head and a short, bluntly rounded snout with a small terminal mouth, containing many sharp teeth on the jaws and the tongue.
The color of its eyes and the position of its anal ﬁn distinguish it from the goldeye. The irises of the large eyes of the mooneye are silver colored (unlike the gold-colored irises of the goldeye). The mooneye’s dorsal fin begins before the anal ﬁn (the goldeye’s begins opposite or behind its anal ﬁn). The mooneye can be distinguished from the gizzard shad by not having a dorsal ﬁn ray projection.