Emerald shiner

Emerald Shiner, photo courtesy of Konrad P. Schmidt, copyright Konrad P. Schmidt>


Emerald Shiner has an elliptical body shape and they are slab-sided. They appear fragile and delicate, but in truth it is a hardy minnow. Their mouth is large, terminal, oblique, and has no barbel. The transparent dorsal fin contains 8 rays, and it is located distinctly behind the insertion of the pelvic fins. The anal fin contains from 10 to 12 rays, and the pectoral fins contain from 13 to 17 rays. Hooked pharyngeal teeth on strong arches are arranged in a 2, 4-4, 2 pattern. Body color consists of an emerald green back, a distinct silver lateral band, and a white belly. A complete lateral line has from 35 to 41 scales.


Emerald Shiner Distribution

The Emerald Shiner is an inhabitant of large interior streams and Great Border Rivers in Iowa, where it is abundant. Distribution is widespread, but it is most prevalent in the Cedar, Des Moines, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers. Smaller streams have Emerald Shiner populations, but they are usually rare in fish collections. It has been introduced as a forage fish into Rathbun Reservoir.


Adults forage on terrestrial and aquatic insects at the surface

State Record

State Records are not documented for non-game species.

Expert Tip



The Emerald Shiner is abundant in the larger interior streams throughout Iowa and in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Distribution is widespread throughout the forested portions of northeast Iowa, but it is most prevalent in central and north-central Iowa, including the Boone, Raccoon and Des Moines Rivers. Populations of emerald shiners are rare in smaller streams. It has also been stocked into Rathbun Reservoir in the Chariton River watershed. The dramatic increase in the occurrence of the emerald shiner since the 1940’s is related to the reduction in turbidity created by reservoir construction.

The Emerald Shiner occurs in a variety of habitats, as it is tolerant of a wide range of turbidities, bottom types, and current velocities. This shiner is characteristic of large, open channels of medium to large-sized, clear rivers and streams with sandy substrates, though can enter the mouths of smaller streams. Large schools of emerald shiners are often found in the middle or uppers layers of water over firm bottoms; and noticeable current.

This cyprinid inhabits the mid-depth to surface waters of the main channel and chutes in large streams, where they often are found in large schools. Spawning occurs from late May to mid-July. Young fish feed exclusively on algae. Adults may reach up to 3 l/2 inches in length and forage on terrestrial and aquatic insects at the surface.

The Plains Shiner (Notropis percobromus) was recently incorporated into the Emerald Shiner species designation.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.

Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames.

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Konrad P. Schmidt, copyright Konrad P. Schmidt

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. There is some shore fishing along the parking area and at the outlet of Lake Odessa. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Pool 16, Mississippi River Scott The amenities list are for Buffalo Shores campground in Buffalo, Iowa. Amenities at other locations in Pool 16 vary by location. 13000.00
Pool 17, Mississippi River Muscatine Amenities list for Muscatine City Ramp. This ramp is located in downtown Muscatine. Amenities vary by location in Pool 17. 7580.00
Paint Creek Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 11.00
Upper Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque near Swiss Valley Nature Center, just off Swiss Valley Road 2.10
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80
Lower Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque in Swiss Valley Park just off Swiss Valley Road 0.80