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How to Catch Shiners

Last Updated: 24.04.24

If you have been fishing for a while, you may already know about the old practice of catching a fish using another fish. It is nothing out of the ordinary to be successful with such a technique, for the simple reason that many fish, such as bass, have other fish, much smaller, in their diet. Anglers have been fishing in such a manner for centuries, and the only thing you have to do is to ensure that you have enough bait at your disposal.

But how do you find such bait readily available? The types of lure sold in specialized shops may catch your eye, as they are designed to resemble the type of fish other fish feed on. However, they may not still be as successful as live bait. Such bait is often comprised of small silvery fish that carry the suggestive name of shiners. In this article, we will focus on giving you actionable information about how to catch shiners.

You can always find plenty of shiners in tanks, but the downside is that they do not seem to be as appealing as those caught in the wild, for the fish species feeding on them. You can catch plenty of shiners if you look for them in shallow waters. They present the advantage of moving through the water exactly how their predators expect them to do, and that can give you the exact edge you need.

The following guide focuses on different methods you can use to catch shiners. Remember that we are talking here about how to catch wild shiners and not the type that is raised in a tank. Hopefully, you will get the hang of catching shiners without a problem after reading our guide.


Lead shiners into your traps


If you want to be efficient about catching shiners, you can be smart about it. A method that will not give you any headaches and it has also proved to be successful, setting traps will bring you plenty of shiners that you can afterward use for adequately baiting other fish.

The first thing you need to do is to place the trap in shallow waters. This is where shiners have their usual habitat, and you will be in luck if you focus on this particular area. It is also a known thing among anglers that shiners prefer to stick close to trees and other forms of vegetation that provides enough shade, which is something they like, as it ensures protection.

When you set a trap, it is not enough to just place it somewhere in the waters where shiners are usual inhabitants. You can always draw them from their hiding places, by spreading some bread pieces in the water, away from the vegetation that constitutes their home. Even if shy, the promise of a good meal will have them emerge from the shadows and swim right into your trap.

It is crucial that you cause no harm to the shiners after your trap is filled with them. The best way to do so is by making sure that your trap remains under water as you operate the transfer. To work as live bait, they need to be kept healthy, and that is the course of action for that. You can then use them as bait for other fish.



Catching shiners with a cast net


If setting a trap is not your type of modus operandi, there are other methods you can employ with ease. One of them is to use a cast net and catch as many as you like in one go. Especially if you are interested in getting enough live bait for a long fishing trip, this should be your method of choice. Of course, there are some downsides to this method that you should take into consideration, but, otherwise, it is quite efficient and loved by many anglers.

The challenging part of catching shiners using a cast net is the degree of finesse and expertise needed for landing as much live bait as you want. As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect, and, in due time, you will be able to register successful outcomes each time you employ this method.

The first thing you need to do when you are searching for shiners to catch is to see where they gather. Since they like sticking to the shadowy parts of the bodies of water they live in, they are not easy to spot. However, if you know what to look for, it is not as difficult as you might think. Those that are active can be spotted by their silvery bodies.

When they swim in deep waters, you may learn about their presence by the bubbles appearing on the surface. Once you decide to cast your net, make sure that there are no objects in the water or anywhere close by that can destroy it and ruin your fishing session.

Just as with the method mentioned earlier, you can make the fish come out from their hiding places by luring them with some tasty pieces of bread. You may not have to wait too long, either. After throwing the food all over, cast the net, to ensure that you cover as much surface as you can.

The weights attached to the edge of the net will sink in. Wait until you are sure that the desired enclosure was created. That is the moment when you start closing it. One of the reasons why this method requires finesse and practice is the following simple skill that is hard to master: you will have to close the net before the bottom is reached.

This way, you don’t have to worry about the net getting caught in various objects lying on the waterbed. When you pull the net up, do it quickly, to ensure that the health of the shiners is not affected. Just as mentioned a little earlier, you need them alive and kicking to be good to be used as bait.


The well-tried method of rod and line


This may not be exactly something you would expect as a recommendation since it will take a while to catch each shiner, one by one. However, if you are the type of fisherman very much attached to your rod and line, there may be no better option for you.

Here are a few tips you can follow to maximize your chances of catching plenty of shiners without too much effort. The preferred bait is bread, so if you hook a tiny piece in your hook, you will make sure to catch something more often than not. Treble hooks work best for these small fish; this is another recommendation to bear in mind.

When the shiner bites, don’t just pull the line out of the water. Guide it slowly, so that it sets into the hook. Avoid jerky movements, and wait even a few minutes until you feel that the line becomes tight and the shiner is hooked correctly.

Once you take the shiner out of the water, grab it with maximum care. You don’t want to squeeze it or harm it in any way. That will surely help you with keeping it alive and well.


Catching golden shiners

Do you want to know how to catch golden shiners? That can be a bit different from the usual, which is why we treat them separately here. One thing you need to know about golden shiners is that they eat a lot of larvae, small vegetation pieces, and algae; they can even eat small minnows, and that will give you an idea about how to lure them in.

The chum you should use is oatmeal, as they love the small flakes and can eat them. Entire schools of golden shiners will flock to the area, and you will be able to catch plenty of them. You can even use oatmeal by impaling some flakes on a hook. They love this chum so much that oatmeal can serve as bait, just as well.


What about the cold season? Is it possible to catch shiners?

Catching shiners in winter is not impossible. Since they are used as bait for ice fishing in many parts of the world, they are preferred to other lures. With this fish species, you can catch much bigger fish, like pike, walleye, and trout. Whenever you go ice fishing, it is quite a good idea to aim for having plenty of shiners as live bait.

It is true that shiners are not that widespread in winter, and you will have to look for them. However, once you find an excellent location, what remains to do is to set up a trap, like you usually do in the summertime.

Use your drill to make a hole in the ice, and put the trap inside. If you are not satisfied with how large the hole is after using the drill, you can use any ice-breaking tool to make it bigger. Use oatmeal or bread pieces to create an enticing trap for the shiners.

One thing to bear in mind when you go catching shiners in the cold season is that they tend to swim at different depths than usual. Layers of water have different temperatures, and the warmer ones are preferred by fish during winter.

That means that you might have to experiment a little with different depths until you manage to hit the jackpot. Your best bet is somewhere near the bottom, but you can never be too sure, which is why it is a good idea to experiment.

Sometimes you only need to leave the trap for half an hour and find it full of shiners when you get back to it. However, you may not always be this lucky, which means that there is nothing wrong with leaving the trap overnight. If you still find the trap empty, maybe you should search for another place.

The bottom line is that you can catch shiners in winter, but you have to find a good location, use the right bait and arm yourself with patience, as it might take a while until you can go ice fishing with plenty of live bait.

The seine net method

Going back to various methods for catching shiners, here is another one that you may find useful. A seine net can prove a more than a decent tool for such an endeavor, in case you have someone else tag along with you. The more people hold the seine net, the better, so, if you are with a big party, you can rest assured that you will catch plenty of live bait.

You must make sure that the spot you pick for casting a seine net is even enough so you can stand on your two feet without the risk to lose balance. Go to areas where everyone can sit upright with the water below the waist, and away from any strong currents.

It is easy to scare the fish away, if someone is knocked down, not to mention the entire unpleasant situation of having to dry your clothes before proceeding further. Spread the seine net as wide as possible, with people positioned equally one from another. At least someone should be close to the shore.

This person will be the pivot, while the others will make the necessary rotation to catch the shiners in the net, right above the waterbed. This way you can make sure that no shiners will escape. Do you still remember how important it is to keep the fish healthy and stress-free? When catching them with a seine net, the same rule applies.

A bucket that allows the water to flow through should serve as storage. The live bait should have enough room to breathe, so don’t hurry to crowd too many in the same bucket. In case you don’t want to use the live bait right away, a good idea would be to place the shiners in a cooler. This way, they will be kept alive until you need them.


Last words

You don’t have to rely on bait bought from specialized shops if you know how to catch this type of fish. It can be a lot of fun to catch shiners, and it is an activity that can involve other friends, too. A few rules must be taken into consideration, and those are related to the necessity of keeping the bait as healthy as possible. When you get around to use them as bait, they should behave just as they would naturally, so that the bigger fish you want to catch will not suspect anything out of the ordinary.


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