Bait Fish (Minnows)

Michigan Minnows Commonly Used As Bait

Some of these baitfish are known to be carriers of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS). VHS kills sport fish. Please check the Michigan Fishing Guide for regulations on baitfish.

Graphic of alewife
Scientific Name: Alosa pseudoharengus
Common Name: Alewife (found in the Great Lakes and is a common bait for salmon fishing)
Color: Green/blue along its back and silver on its sides and belly
Markings: : Larger eye with a characteristic black spot located behind the eye / scales that line up in a row along the belly give it a sawtooth appearance
Length: 6-7 inches
Susceptible to VHS: No

Bluntnose Minnow
Graphic of bluntnose minnow
Scientific Name: Pimephales notatus
Common Name: Bluntnose Minnow
Color: Light olive to tan on back, silvery on the lower siders and belly
Markings: Scales darkly outlined (often with cross-hatched appearance) with a black horizontal stripe on side and black spot on tail
Length: 2-3 inches
Susceptible to VHS: Yes

Creek Chub
Graphic of creek chub
Scientific Name: Semotilus atromaculatas
Common Name: Creek Chub
Color: Purple and bronze sheen on sides
Markings: Dark spot at the base of the dorsal (back) fin / tubercles on head and snout
Length: 6-12 inches
Susceptible to VHS: No

Emerald Shiner
Graphic of emerald shiner
Scientific Name: Notropis atherinoides
Common Name: Emerald Shiner (often referred to as "Blues" and fished as "walleye minnows")
Color: Silver with green iridescence
Markings: Very short snout and large eyes
Length: 3-4 inches
Susceptible to VHS: Yes

Fathead Minnow
Graphic of fathead minnow
Scientific Name: Pimephales promelas
Common Name: Fathead Minnow (sometimes referred to as Rosey-reds due to color variation)
Color: Olive-gray back and upper side with dull yellow to white on the lower side
Markings: Dark stripe down the sire with diffused dark blotches on dorsal fin / flat head that is almost black on males during breeding
Length: 2-3 inches
Susceptible to VHS: No

Golden Shiner
Graphic of golden shiner
Scientific Name: Notemigonus crysoleucas
Common Name: Golden Shiner (Common pike bait during the ice fishery)
Color: Silver in clear water and golden in coffee or turbid water
Markings: Body is fatted belly to back than most other bait fish with a lateral line running along their sides that severely dips down in the middle of their body
Length: 5-7 inches
Susceptible to VHS: No

Rainbow Smelt
Graphic of rainbow smelt
Scientific Name: Osmerus mordax
Common Name: Smelt (commonly caught in some inland lakes and used to fish for lake trout)
Color: Pale green back with a blue or pink iridescence on a silvery side
Markings: Huge mouth with small teeth and a small adipose fin present on the back just in front of the tail
Length: 7-9 inches
Susceptible to VHS: No

Sand Shiner
Graphic of sand shiner
Scientific Name: Notropis stramineus
Common Name: Sand Shiner
Color: Back, light olive, sides are silvery, underside is white
Markings: Large eyes / lateral line bordered by small dots / body scales bordered by black gives a cross-hatched appearance
Length: 2-3 inches
Susceptible to VHS: No

Spottail Shiner
Graphic of spottail shiner
Scientific Name: Notropis hudsonius
Common Name: Spottail Shiner (often referred to as "Greys" and used as lake trout bait)
Color: Silver sides with greenish blue back
Markings: Prominent dark spot on their tails
Length: 3-4 inches
Susceptible to VHS: Yes

White Sucker
Graphic of white sucker
Scientific Name: Catostomus commersoni
Common Name: Sucker (often fished as "Pike Minnows" through the ice or under a bobber)
Color: Dark brown back, cream belly
Markings: Sucking mouth with no barbels / coarser scales and long anal fin
Length: 12-20 inches / 4-6 inches is common bait size although larger ones are sold as decoys for spearing through the ice
Susceptible to VHS: Yes

Fish images originally prepared by Ellen Edmonson and Hugh Chrisp as part of the 1927 - 1940 New York Biological Survey, courtesy of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Bluntnose minnow, emerald shiner, golden shinier, rainbow smelt, spottail shiner, white sucker, alewife illustrations by Joseph R. Tomelleri. Fathead minnow illustration by Duane Raver, USFWS.