Search Field Guide
Advanced Search
MT Gov Logo
Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Emerald Shiner - Notropis atherinoides

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status

External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Currently ranked a S5 because it is common, widespread, and abundant (although it may be rare in parts of its range). Not vulnerable in most of its range.
General Description
The emerald shiner belongs to a genus that contains about 100 species of minnows commonly called shiners. Emerald shiners are schooling fish native to the Missouri-Yellowstone River basin. They seem to prefer the larger prairie rivers and the open central waters of impoundments. Fish with this type of habitat preference are called pelagic. In some areas of the U.S., this fish has been widely introduced for forage; that is, as food for the larger predatory game fish. Although they are of lesser importance as prey in Montana, emerald shiners do have some value as a commercial bait fish in eastern Montana. They grow to about 4 inches in length.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Overall silvery with iridescent light green back. Usually has an emerald green or silvery midside stripe, particularly toward the rear. Young are somewhat translucent. Eye large. Body slender and flat sided, fragile looking. Scales easily rubbed off.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Western Hemisphere Range


Range Comments
St. Lawrence drainage, Quebec; Hudson River drainage, New York to Mackenzie River drainage (Arctic basin), Northwest Territories, and south through Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins to Gulf; Gulf Slope drainages from Mobile Bay, Alabama, to Galveston Bay, Texas (Page and Burr 1991).

Montana Range: Native in the Yellowstone and Missouri River drainages, introduced elsewhere, especially the Bighorn River.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1295

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Makes spawning run to lower Marias River.

Preferred habitat is larger stream channels and their impoundments. They are pelagic and avoids areas with aquatic vegetation. Prefers main channel border as specific habitat type. In the Wild and Scenic Section of the Missouri River upstream of Fort Peck, seining on the slow-water edge of a deep run captured the most emerald shiners (D. Stagliano, pers observation).

Food Habits
Food consists largely of zooplankton and small aquatic insects eaten in the water column; but some algae and terrestrial insects have been found in emerald shiner stomachs.

Important food item of sport fishes, particularly burbot, rainbow trout, walleye, sauger and northern pike.

Reproductive Characteristics
Sexually mature at 2 yrs. Spawns in July - August. Spawning has been shown to peak mid to late July in middle Missouri River study.

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Clancey, C.G. 1978. The fish and aquatic invertebrates in Sarpy Creek, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 54 p.
    • Duncan, M.B. 2019. Distributions, abundances, and movements of small, nongame fishes in a large Great Plains river network. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 255 p.
    • Hendricks, P., S. Lenard, D.M. Stagliano, and B.A. Maxell. 2013. Baseline nongame wildlife surveys on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Report to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 83 p.
    • Mullen, J.A. 2007. Spatiotemporal variation of fish assemblages in Montana prairie streams. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 102 p.
    • Mullins, M.S. 1991. Biology and predator use of cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
    • Rosenthal, L.R. 2007. Evaluation of distribution and fish passage in relation to road culverts in two eastern Montana prairie streams. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 78 p.
    • Stash, S.W. 2001. Distribution, relative abundance, and habitat associations of Milk River fishes related to irrigation diversion dams. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 82 p.
    • Stringer, A.L. 2018. Status of Northern Pearl Dace and chrosomid dace in prairie streams of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 150 p.
    • Trenka, R.J. 2000. Community structure and habitat associations of fishes of the lower Tongue and Powder Rivers. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 85 p.
    • Wuellner, M.R. 2007. Influence of reach and watershed characteristics on fish distributions in small streams of eastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 80 p.
  • Web Search Engines for Articles on "Emerald Shiner"
  • Additional Sources of Information Related to "Fish"
Login Logout
Citation for data on this website:
Emerald Shiner — Notropis atherinoides.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from