Golden Shiner

Golden Shiner, illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


A large, slab-sided minnow. The body is dark green above with olive sides, brassy belly, and a distinctive golden sheen. Golden Shiners have 3 easily distinguishable characters. The lateral line is strongly curved below the center line. The anal fin is long, with 11-13 rays. There are no scales covering the belly ridge between the pelvic fins and anus. The mouth is small, terminal and oblique, and the jaw does not extend to the eye or have a barbel. The dorsal fin, inserted behind the pelvic fin, has 8 rays, while the pelvic fins have 9 rays, and the pectoral fins have 15 to 17 rays. A complete lateral line has 45 to 52 scales. Young Golden Shiners are very different from adults, being silvery, not as slab-sided, and have a distinct lateral stripe from eye to caudal fin.


Golden Shiner Distribution

Common to abundant in many streams and lakes scattered throughout the state. Collections show the highest concentrations of the golden shiner are in the upper watersheds of the Chariton, Des Moines, Iowa, Little Sioux and Wapsipinicon River drainages. It is found throughout the Mississippi River and has been documented in the Missouri River as well. The overall range of the Golden Shiner has expanded likely from bait-bucket introductions and stocking of brood fish such as those in man-made lakes in southern Iowa.


Adult shiners eat a variety of plant and animal materials, but the young feed primarily on plankton. Because they are filter feeders, plankton makes up a large part of the diet, but aquatic insects, mollusks and aquatic vegetation are also eaten.

State Record

State Records are not documented for non-game species.

Expert Tip

Golden Shiners are an excellent bait fish, used either alive or dead. They are used extensively in fisheries resource management programs as forage fish. Larger specimens are occasionally caught by anglers on worms or lures while fishing for panfish.


The Golden Shiner can be found in a variety of clear, quiet water habitats but reaches greatest abundance in sloughs, ponds, reservoirs, clear lakes, canals, ditches and the quiet pools of low-gradient streams. It can be found in schools in midwater or near the surface. The Golden Shiner thrives in areas with dense growths of aquatic vegetation and bottoms made of mainly of organic debris or sand. It is commonly found in the permanent pools of clear, heavily vegetated, intermittent upland creeks. It is more tolerant of low oxygen levels, nutrient enrichment, turbidity and pollution than other minnows, but some researchers have recorded decreases in abundance as drainage, turbidity, siltation and pollution have increased in Ohio.  

Golden Shiners spawn from May through July by scattering the adhesive eggs over submerged vegetation or filamentous algae. Females release up to 4,000 eggs. Young fish grow to 4-inches long during their first year, and adults reach up to 12-inches after three years of life. 

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.

Illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Clear Lake Cerro Gordo south edge of Clear Lake 3684.00
West Swan Lake S.W.M.A. Emmet 3m SE Gruver 379.00
West Lake (Osceola) Clarke 2 miles west of Osceola 320.00
Lake Anita Cass 1/2 mile south of Anita 159.00
Lake Ahquabi Warren 5 miles southwest of Indianola 114.00
Union Grove Lake Tama 4 miles South of Gladbrook 100.00
Missouri River (Sioux City to Little Sioux) Harrison Chris Larsen Park: 1280 Larsen Park Road/Sioux City, IA. Located on the Sioux City riverfront along the Missouri River. Larsen Park offers 110 acres on the Sioux City Riverfront. Managed by the City of Sioux City. 64.00
Missouri River (Council Bluffs to state line) Fremont Lake Manawa State Park: 1100 South Shore Drive/Council Bluffs, IA 51501 phone: 712-366-0220. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Lake Manawa State Park has boat ramps on the Missouri River within the park. 61.00
Missouri River (Little Sioux to Council Bluffs) Pottawattamie Wilson Island State Recreation Area: 32801 Campground Lane/Missouri Valley, IA 51555 phone-712-642-2069. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wilson Island Recreation Area has 544 acres along the Missouri River near Missouri Valley Iowa. 53.00
McKinley Lake Union 50.00
Meadow Lake Adair 6 miles northeast of Greenfield 34.00
Pioneer Park Pond Page 10m N Clarinda 7.00
Ambroson Pit (north) Winnebago 3 1/2 miles north of Forest City 4.28