The striped shiner (Luxilus chrysocephalus) is a small member of the minnow family found across large parts of the Ohio and Mississippi River watersheds in the United States. Most notable to anglers for their role as a baitfish for larger species, these fish are usually caught accidentally by anglers fishing for other species like trout.
Striped shiners can actually grow up to nine inches however. That means they can even be bigger than the average trout in some waters. So these fish aren’t something you should ignore. They are plentiful and an important part of the ecosystem.
Striped shiner identification
Striped shiners are mostly silver fish. The striped part of the name comes from the fact that some of these fish will have horizontal bars on the sides of their bodies. Males can also have rosy cheeks and reddish areas on the sides of their bodies. But the biggest give away is the size of the scale along their lateral line.
Striped shiner caught in Pennsylvania
The scales along the middle of the striped shiner are actually elongated and bigger than the scales found along the top and bottom of the body. So even when the fish are washed out or totally silver in color and lacking any stripes, this can be one way to identify them.
Striped shiners average at between three and five inches. Though they can grow up to nine inches in length (23 cm). They have rather large mouths for their bodies. With these mouthes they eat everything from algae to beetles.
Striped shiner range and habitat
Striped shiners can be found throughout the great lakes, Ohio River basin, and large stretches of the Mississippi River watershed. That means they can reliably be found from Mississippi on up to New York and Wisconsin.
It seems that striped shiners are rather tolerant of conditions. They clearly prefer moving waters like streams and rivers. But they can be found in slow flowing discolored creeks that barely move as well as flowing clear waters with rocky bottoms that most would call “trout streams.”
We’ve caught striped shiners in waters as varied and wide spread as Elk Creek (Pennsylvania), Loyalhanna Creek, Gauley River and the Buffalo National River. These fish are not difficult to find within their rather wide range which stretches from the Ozarks to the Great Lakes.
How to fish for striped shiners
Most anglers catch striped shiners incidentally when fishing streams for other species like trout. They are eager feeders that will hit small dry flies with gusto. They aren’t adverse to picking up a live worm as long as their body either.
But if you want to target striped shiners specifically, a good bet is to use a microfishing setup. All you need to do is put a small piece of soft white bread, dough or even a pinched off portion of worm or Gulp! Maggot on a tanago hook and cast out in front of the fish.
Striped shiner caught on a dry fly
Striped shiners aren’t picky eaters. They aren’t all that shy either. It’s quite possible to stand right above a pod of striped shiners and fish for them without a problem. You still have a better chance at catching the fish if they don’t notice you though.
If you don’t want to go the microfishing route, simply fish a small piece of worm or a trout worm on a size 16 or 18 hook. Use light line and a small float for weight and cast out to the shiners. Just be ready to strike as striped shiners are fast little fish.
Fly fishing also works well for striped shiners. In that case the most difficult thing is simply to target them. Once you find the fish you can use almost any small dry fly. Something like a size 14 Adam’s dry fly will work well. So will trico and gnat dry flies in similar sizes.
Lures that mimic the striped shiner
If you’re after larger fish that typically eat striped shiners, you may want to mimic this species. Of course you can use the striped shiner as live bait where allowed. But there are also a number of flies and artificial lures that look enough like a striped shiner to fool many fish.
The live roach color shad rap from Rapala looks a lot like the striped shiner in body shape and color. But it can be difficult to find. A Shallow Shad Rap in the more common silver color is a good compromise. The classic colored Death Stalker by Catch Co looks a lot like a striped shiner too.
In terms of soft plastics it is hard to beat the Aqua Relic Fatty Golden Shiner Swimbait. Despite the name it looks a lot like a striped shiner. So does the Common Shiner Swimbait from LiveTarget. Though a simple silver or gray grub can also do the trick.
When it comes to flies, the Golden Shiner variety of the Diamond Hair Minnow is a good choice to “match the hatch.” The Lake Erie Shiner is another good streamer though it looks more like an immature striped shiner since it’s slim and uniform from front to back.