The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
Quiz question: What is the largest genus of fish in North America? (Remember, from your biology classes that genus is a principle taxonomic category that ranks above species and below family). If you said “Notropis” you would be correct. Notropis are basically what we call minnows. There are about 100 different species of Notropis in North America and about 50 of those occur here on the Central Plains. Most are usually from 3-5 inches in length. One of the more common species in our area and in the Great Plains in general is the Red Shiner (Notropus Lutrensis).
Breeding males are colorful with silvery blue bodies and bright red fins and tails. It's fun just to see these up close when you pull a minnow seine from a hole in one of the creeks in our area. Lots of folks have no idea they are driving over such a colorful show when they cross a creek bridge.
Shiners eat plankton, insects, and some plant material. I have actually caught them on tiny flies designed to catch trout on western streams.
According to The Fishes of the Central United States, “ Females of some species of shiners are capable of transmitting sounds that can be detected by males. Like the songs of birds, these sounds are specific and help keep the different species of shines segregated while they spawn..” page 90.
Because they are plentiful and grow to decent size, shiners are a valuable forage fish often used as bait. Pull a minnow net through a deep hole in the creek, or a riffle in the bigger streams and take a closer look at what you catch. There’s a lot to discover out there.