Golden shiners are native to many areas throughout the southern waters. The shiner’s habitat includes lakes, ponds, sloughs, and even estuarial waters. They are a major food source for many species of fish and are excellent bait. In fact, for catching large “lunker” bass nothing works better than wild golden shiners. Wild shiners are especially popular with many bass fishing guides because shiners product results.
Bait stores generally charge over a dollar each for larger shiners and constantly sell out. However, wild shiners are abundant and can frequently be caught in areas around aquatic plants like eel grass or lily pads were the water is fairly still and not too deep. Use a loaf of bread to chum the shiners to your spot. This generally involves wetting several slices of bread, squeezing the slices into a ball so they will sink. The shiners will soon school around the bread to feed. There are two ways to catch these schooling shiners. The first is, of course, using your 3/8 mesh cast net. The second is to catch them on a hook, line, bobber, and sinker. Tie on a # 12 or # 10 hook, use the smallest sinker you have and just enough bobber to keep the rig floating. Bait the hook with a small bread ball and when the bobber goes down pull in your catch. Catching shiners this way is almost as much fun as catching the larger fish. The best time of day to catch shiners is first thing in the morning. Shiners can be caught at any time of the day although the action may be a little slower so go ahead and set a shiner out fishing because if shiners are around so are the bass.
Shiners, like shrimp, require lots of oxygenated water to survive so immediately put your bait in an aerated live well of some type. Also, shiners will jump out of the live well if the opportunity presents itself, so keep the live well cover closed.
Hooking a shiner in the dorsal fin causes it to swim near the surface.
Al from Clay County Florida sent fishing-tips-bait-tackle.com this note:
“The St. Johns River in Florida is one of the best bass fisheries in the south. I love fishing the river in the spring around the time bass begin their spawn. To catch lunkers I only use wild golden shiners that I have caught myself and I prefer them to be at lest 5 inches long or longer. These shiners are very energetic and natural to the area I’m fishing. I use two anchors to set the boat up inside a cove than has a good coverage of eel grass. My fishing rig consist of a 7 foot heavy action rod, a quality bait caster spooled with braided line which is 40 to 50 pound test. I use braided because the line floats better than mono, this helps to keep unwanted slack out of the line. For a hook I use a 5/0 kahle and I always hook the shiner in the back dorsal fin so the shiner will swim near the surface. I use a float set about 2 or 3 feet from the hook and allow the shiner to swim only inches away from the grass bed edge. I keep the reel set so the bass can freely take line out. When I see the float disappear I know the bass is running away with the shiner. Then I slowly take up any slack line as I point the rod tip at the bass then I set the hook.”
This golden shiner is hooked only through the lips, some anglers will extend the hook through the roof of the shiner’s mouth out one of the nostrils.
One mistake many anglers make is they set their boat up too far away from the grass bed or lily pads. This requires them to make longer cast which will often damage the shiner. A shorter casting distance is much better for the health of the shiner. Better still, just drop the shiner over the side of the boat and let it swim over to the grass bed.