Oneida Lake Education Initiative

"Your gateway to understanding Oneida Lake"

Emerald Shiner

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  • Oneida Lake individuals may be as long as 4 inches, as heavy as 0.02 pounds, and be more than 2 years old
  • Eat mostly plankton, and feed at night to avoid predation
  • Known locally as “buckeyes” and often used as baitfish


Emerald shiners have very short snouts and large eyes. They are generally silver in color with a green iridescence on their backs that fades to silver or white on their bellies. Young emerald shiners are semi-transparent in appearance. An emerald band frequently extends from the upper corner of the gill cover along the side to the tail.


Different from many other species of minnow, emerald shiners are open water (pelagic) fish and are only found in large rivers and lakes where they travel in schools. As plankton feeders, emerald shiners approach the surface at dark to feed, but retreat to deeper water in the day. They are also known to eat blue-green algae.


Little is known about emerald shiner spawning behavior. Emerald shiners are thought to begin spawning in May, but some individuals spawn as late as August. Unlike most other minnows, they do not spawn over gravel or vegetation, but release their eggs in mid-water during the night. After hatching, the young grow rapidly, reaching 2 inches in length by late fall. They reach maturity during their second summer, and rarely live through their third.


Emerald shiner population levels fluctuate widely from year to year. In years when emerald shiners are abundant, they are important forage fish for predators, as well as important baitfish for anglers. During these years, emerald shiners may be the most abundant fish in Oneida Lake. Besides being found in Oneida Lake where they are known as “buckeyes”, emerald shiners can be found in the Hudson, Niagara, and lower Mohawk Rivers, the Great Lakes, and in Lake Champlain.


To learn more about Emerald Shiner ...

Emerald Shiner Factsheet (pdf - 86kb)

Oneida Lake Education Initiative Fish Homepage