Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)

Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)

The emerald shiner is one of many shiners that are members of the minnow, or Cyprinidae, family. These fish are important forage for predator species and are frequently used as bait by anglers. Unlike most minnows, however, the emerald shiner is a pelagic big-water species and is abundant in large rivers and in lakes within its range.


The emerald shiner is a slender, elongated fish with a pale and silvery slab-sided body; it is faintly iridescent green on the top, fading to silver or white on the belly. Juveniles appear semitransparent. Other characteristics include a faint lateral band, a short and fairly pointed snout, large eyes, and usually 11 anal fin rays. It has no barbels. During the spawning season, males develop very small tubercles on the fins but have no breeding colors.


Emerald shiners are commonly 3 to 4 inches long and seldom grow to more than 5 inches long. They typically live for only 3 years.

Spawning behavior

Spawning occurs when water temperatures reach about 75°F and may be continued over an extended period, lasting from late spring through midsummer in some places. Unlike many other shiners, this species spawns in midwater in groups. It is also prone to cyclical abundance.


A pelagic species, emerald shiners feed on plankton, zooplankton, blue-green algae, diatoms, and insect larvae.

Other Names

buckeye, shiner, lake shiner, lake emerald shiner, common emerald shiner; French: mémé émeraude.


This species has a wide range, from the St. Lawrence and the Hudson River basins west to the Mackenzie River drainage of the Northwest Territories and south throughout the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River drainages, to the Gulf Coast from Texas to Alabama. It is probably the most abundant fish in the Mississippi River and other large rivers, and is also prominent in the Great Lakes, as well as in other large lakes.


Emerald shiners travel in large schools in midwater and near-surface areas. They roam in large lakes and are common in the pools of big rivers. They are known to move vertically toward the surface at night and to deeper water in daylight.