The genus notropis, or the eastern shiners, are around ninety fish species in the minnow
(Leuciscidae) family that are notoriously difficult to identify. These “shiners” make up a large
portion of the minnow species in eastern streams, even though most people will never know
they are there. Avid microanglers will inevitably run into what we call “notropis nightmares”,
with identification of the three species below. Not only do these species tend to live in the
same streams and habitats together-making collecting and identification a hassle-each of
the three species seemingly can mimic each other physically in the streams they are residing in
in what we can only guess, is a survival tactic. As a result, they can look a lot alike each other,
however, there are several visual clues to get accurate identification of each species, albeit very
small clues… (Side note: Microfishing combines science with angling and that is one of the more
rewarding aspects that appeals to me).
Coastal Shiner (Notropis petersoni).
A highly variable looking minnow that reaches around 3 inches in length and has a terminal
mouth. Some populations are blueish in coloration, some silvery, yellow, and or reddish overall.
Coastal Shiners have a darker stripe along the midline of the body ending with a rectangular
wedge on the caudal fin base. The coastal shiner may be confused with the similarly colored
weed shiner, (Notropis texanus), but the two can be separated according to tail pigmentation.
Melanophores outline all anal fins on the coastal shiner, but only the last four rays on the weed
shiner. The Coastal Shiner is endemic to the US where it is found in Atlantic and Gulf slope
drainages from the Cape Fear and Waccamaw river drainages, North Carolina, south to
southern Florida, and west to Jordan River in Mississippi.
Weed Shiner (Notropis texanus).
Weed Shiners are small minnows with a fairly compressed body, a blunt, overhanging snout,
and a terminal mouth. Weed Shiners are slightly thicker and not as elongated as Coastal
Shiners, which have a more streamlined profile. The black lateral band is well developed,
extending from around the snout to the tail. The caudal spot is small, either square or rounded,
and narrower than the lateral band. Scales below the lateral band are slightly pigmented, and
the last four rays of the anal fin are delicately outlined with melanophores. Coloration is
generally yellowish in most fish, however, examples found along the Gulf Coast of the US have
reddish fins. The Weed Shiner is found in Gulf slope drainages from the Suwanee River west to
the Nueces River in Texas and north throughout the Mississippi basin to Minnesota. This
species commonly inhabits the Alabama Coastal Plain, and it occurs in a few localities above the
Ironcolor Shiner (Notropis chalybaeus).
The Ironcolor Shiner is a relatively small fish with lengths typically no more than two inches. It
has a yellowish back and sides with a well-defined black lateral stripe stretching from the caudal
peduncle to the snout and has pigmentation on the chin and lips. It has a shorter snout than the
width of its eye and the bottom of the mouth has noticeably black pigmentation. When
breeding the males develop a bright orange stripe above their black lateral stripes as well as
frequently having orange spots above and below the black spot on the caudal fin. The fins
are almost unpigmented and lack any distinct markings but breeding males may develop
orange coloration on the fins and over the body. The Ironcolor Shiner is endemic to the eastern
United States where it occurs from New York south to Florida and west to the Mississippi Basin.
We have noticed Ironcolor Shiners in parts of Florida that are difficult to differentiate from
Coastal Shiners found in the same streams and required a more detailed examination.
Coastal Shiner-silvery form (Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina)
Coastal Shiner-red form (South Florida)
Coastal Shiner-golden/black form (South Florida)
Coastal Shiner-blue form (Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina)
Coastal Shiner-plain jane (Pee Dee River Drainage, North Carolina)
Weed Shiner-blue form/large eye (South Georgia)
Weed Shiner-plain jane (South Georgia)
Weed Shiner-dark yellow (Florida)
Weed Shiner-standard form (Minnesota)
Weed Shiner-reddish form (Gulf Coast of the US)
Ironcolor Shiner-standard form (Coastal Plain, North Carolina)
Ironcolor Shiner-“Coastal Shiner” form (Ocala, Florida)