SAO Pages

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Lake Erie's Emerald Shiner

The Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides) is a Steelheading hot topic.  As many are aware, the Steelhead found on the Alley feed largely on this small but highly populated bait fish while in the big lake.

Whereas Alewives are a more important baitfish in other great lakes, Lake Erie's primary food source is the Emerald Shiner.  Although in decline, they are a source of food that should not be ignored in the fly anglers arsenal.  Steelhead become accustomed to feeding on these abundant fish in the lake and also find them available during their spawning in the spring of the year.  

The fact that these little jewels are in the lake and also spawn into our tributaries at the same time as our Little Manistee's explains all the hoopla.  Here are some great facts I found on this Erie jewel.


Maximum size: 127mm TL (Flittner 1964) roughly 5 inches

Coloration: Live fish are a bright, iridescent silvery green with a silver midlateral band. The back and upper sides are greenish to straw colored, and the venter is silvery white. The dorsal scales are dusted with melanophores and have pigmented margins and clear centers. There is a variable middorsal stripe extending from the back of the head to the caudal base, and the head is diffusely pigmented with melanophores from the occiput anteriorly to the snout. The area between the nostril and eye lacks melanophores and only a few melanophores surround orbit. The lips are pigmented medially and the pigment continues about half way down the midline of the lower jaw. The cheek, suborbital, and opercle are silvery. A lateral band about 1.5 scales wide extends from the opercle to the caudal base, and is diffusely stippled anteriorly, becoming more prominent on the caudal penduncle. Scales along the side are bright and silvery. The dorsal, caudal, and leading rays of the pectoral fins are lined with melanophores, but the remaining rays and membranes are clear. No nuptial colors are exhibited by either sex (Ross 2001)

The rest of this article can be found at

Recently I have been experimenting with a more realistic way to tie an Emerald Shiner pattern.  The challenge is that I also wanted it to be a relatively easy tie.

Well, the fly below is the finished creation.  Designed with swinging in mind, I give to you the "Live Shiner."  It isn't much on the eyes when you look at it in it's raw form, but I think you will find that when compared to a true Emerald Shiner, it is a spitting image.

The tying style may look familiar to you if you have ever spent time in the salt, but this is no salt pattern.  It is for fresh water and fresh fish.  I'm sure this pattern would also work well on saltwater species, but on this day, it's an Emerald Shiner meant for big, fresh, Little Manistee's.


After a relatively quick tie, the subsequent trim of the material, all that is needed is some running water to check profile.  If all is done carefully and with a steady hand, you will come out with a deadly replica that may stand alone when compared to the hundreds of other patterns fished on a regular basis.


Again, we encourage you to take this time of locked up rivers to tie, create, fill your boxes.....and if needed, do some research to perfect your hunt for our potadromous friends!

Tight Lines,

Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Head Guide
Steelhead Alley Outfitters

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