Shiners, or white bait, is a generic term for several families of small silvery baitfish. They can be found throughout the United States in large schools on the flats or just offshore around markers.
They are considered terrific as bait because they are a valuable source of forage for a wide variety of gamefish species.
So, are shiners good for saltwater fishing? Shiners are good for saltwater fishing. However, they may not always be effective because shiners normally inhabit freshwater and they don’t survive long in saltwater. Shiners can be used to target a wide variety of species such as catfish, crappie, yellow perch, bass, walleye, and pike.
Continue reading to learn more about shiners, how to catch them, and how to use them as bait.
What Are Shiners?
Shiners refer to a whole range of small bait fish families that have shiny or silverish coloration along the sides of their bodies. They are also sometimes referred to as white bait.
The most common species of shiners are scaled sardines, pilchards, threadfin herring, and Spanish sardines.
Shiners are less than 3 inches in length and some of them might reach up to 12 inches in length. They feed on insect larvae and zooplankton.
They can be found in large quantities throughout the United States and they mostly inhabit freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, ditches, and streams.
Shiners are available in abundance and they’re rich in protein which makes them a key food source for many large gamefish species. They’re also good for mosquito control and can be a fantastic choice for live bait because of their small size, shiny color, and natural scent.
How to Catch Shiners?
Shiners can be quite expensive to purchase, so in most cases, anglers catch their own shiners.
There are two common methods to catch shiners. Let’s break down each method in more detail:
Using a Cast Net
This is the most effective way to catch shiners because it allows you to cover a large area and catch more fish in a short amount of time.
To catch shiners with a net, you simply need to chum up an area, approach quietly then throw your net.
Aim your net at the center of the area you chummed and allow the net to fully sink to the bottom. After 1 or 2 casts, you should be able to see signs of silver flashes in your net.
Using a Hook and Line
This method of catching shiners can also be very efficient.
You also need to chum up an area first, then set up a rig consisting of an ultralight rod, a 2-4-pound test line, and a small hook. You can use small pieces of red worm, grass shrimp, or bread balls as bait.
You don’t need to use a split shot or a bibber. You can simply cast the bait in the area you chummed and let it sink naturally. Once you sense a twitch on your line, that means you have a bite.
How to Keep Shiners Alive?
Now that you know how to catch shiners, you need to learn how to keep them alive to use as bait.
Here are some tips you can follow:
- Keep them cool – Shiners prefer temperatures between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. You can keep them in a bucket filled with cold water after you catch them. You can also cover the bucket with a lid to keep the shiners from jumping out, and to keep them away from direct sun.
- Keep them aerated – You can use a battery-powered aerator, a water circulator, or a livewell to keep the water rich in oxygen
- Keep them fed – if you’re planning on keeping your shiners alive for longer than 24 hours, you can feed them small pieces of bread or a pinch of fish food once every day.
What Fish Can You Catch with Shiners?
You can use shiners to catch a wide variety of large fish species. Let’s take a closer look at some of these species:
This is one of the most popular species you can catch using shiners as bait.
You can use 3-4 inch shiners when targeting all sizes of bass, but if you’re targeting trophy fish, it’s best to go for shiners that are 6 inches and up.
If you’re new to bass fishing, check out my guide to bass fishing here.
When targeting walleyes, it’s recommended to use shiners that are 3-5 inches in length.
Walleyes usually won’t bite any bait that’s larger than 5 inches.
Flathead, channel, and blue catfish will bite on live or dead shiners.
It’s recommended to use shiners that are 3-6 inches in length.
Yellow perch can be caught using small shiners if they’re presented right.
Since perch are smaller gamefish, it’s best to use shiners that are 1-3 inches in length when targeting them.
Similar to yellow perch, crappie can also be caught using small shiners that are about 1-3 inches in length.
When targeting small pike, it’s recommended to use shiners that are 2-4 inches in length.
When targeting large pike, it’s recommended to use shiners that are above 6 inches in length.
How to Rig a Shiner?
Shiners are often free lined which means you can rig them with just a hook in without using any weight to hinder their movements
Shiners are likely to live longer if they’re rigged on a hook properly. You need to be careful not to hook them through the middle of the nostrils because that’s where their brain is located and you need to avoid breaking their neck.
The best way to rig a shiner is by hooking them through the top and bottom lip which allows for better casting. You can also hook them through the back behind their dorsal fin.
What Is the Best Hook for a Shiner?
The best hook to target a shiner would be a circle hook or an octopus hook. It’s recommended to use a 1 to 4/0 hook when using 3-inch shiners, while 5/0 or 6/0 hooks are more ideal for shiners that are about 8 to 10 inches in length.
Can You Fish with Dead Shiners?
Yes, you can fish with dead shiners when targeting certain species like catfish, bass, and walleye. However, some species like pike and perch prefer live bait so using dead shiners won’t be as effective. Some states ban the use of live bait fish so you may not have a choice.
What Is the Best Bait for Saltwater Fishing in Florida?
The best bait for saltwater fishing in Florida includes shrimp, pinfish, crabs, shiners, mullets, and sand fleas. These baits can be found at many Florida bait shops and they can also be caught by anglers. They can be caught to target a wide variety of gamefish species throughout the state.
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