Common Stream Minnows

Common Stream Minnows
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission website states that the minnow family of fishes includes approximately 2,100 different species in Eurasia, Africa and North America. Over 230 of these various species of minnows exist in the United States and Canada. A number of minnows frequent streams and wind up as baitfish. These species include the common shiner and the fathead minnow. Another larger minnow, the common carp, is a fish you may encounter in a stream setting.

Common Shiner

The common shiner (Luxilus cornutus) has a wide geographic distribution across most of the United States and prefers small- or medium-sized streams with quick moving water. The fish likes shade from the hot sun in the summer and does not do well in warmer waters. Common shiners can grow to 8 inches long in the larger specimens, but most are between 2 and 4 inches. The fish has a greenish back that has a bluish-gray to purple stripe on its side and a white belly. Common shiners spawn between May and July, in water that is between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This minnow is often available to anglers at bait shops and is a species that you can catch with bait traps in its stream environment. The common shiner stays alive during transport from one place to another, and the minnow lives in a holding tank scenario. Ice fisherman often hook a common shiner in the lip or behind the dorsal fin and set them under tip-ups to catch an assortment of game fish, including bass, walleye and northern pike.

Fathead Minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) takes its name from the front of its body being much chunkier than the back end. One of the most common of minnows used for fishing purposes, the fathead minnow prefers slower sections of streams and tends to congregate in the deeper pools. Fathead minnows, also called rosy reds or fatties, have a dark olive to grayish back, silver sides and a white belly. The head is short and flattened on the top. Fathead minnows are another hardy fish, making them a good choice as bait. The largest fatheads grow to around 3.5 inches, and, in their stream ecosystem, the species spawns from the end of spring into the beginning of summer.

Common Carp

The thought of a 20-lb. minnow may sound outrageous, but this describes the common carp (Cyprinus carpio), an introduced member of the minnow family that can weigh even more than that. The common carp now exists across the United States in streams, rivers, ponds and lakes after its introduction from Asia and Europe in the 19th century. Common carp can achieve great weights and lengths, with 20-lb. carp common in many streams. Carp feed along the bottom, with a mouth designed like a vacuum cleaner to suck in food, such as vegetable matter, algae, bugs, mollusks and smaller fish. Carp possess pharyngeal teeth, a set of grinding teeth located in their throats, which crushes what they consume before they swallow it. You can find carp in the slower moving and deeper parts of a stream. You can try to catch carp using bait, such as night crawlers, canned corn and dough balls, with the fish able to give you an incredible fight, especially if you use light tackle.

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