Bait Fish

What are bait fish?

Bait fish is a collective term referring to small forage fish, like fathead minnows or golden shiners, used primarily as bait for fishing or for supplementary feeding of other larger fish like bass, crappie, or bluegill.


Fathead minnows and golden shiners are ideal for stocking in new or established ponds. As the fish in ponds and lakes begin to grow in size they require larger meals to keep up their growth and health. Stocking bait fish in new ponds provides a food base for the small growing population of fish, adding them to established ponds provides faster growth.


Spawning of fathead minnows and golden shiners start in June when water temperatures exceed 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Spawning continues all summer long with species spawning up to 4-5 times, each laying about 100,000 eggs each. Vegetative cover or artificial cover is required for spawning with many pond owners using old ceder trees, pvc piping, and old pallets as a place for these bait fish to spawn , as well as a place to hide from larger fish.


Fathead minnows are ideal for new ponds and ponds with populations of smaller fish. Minnows rarely exceed 3 inches so they are perfect for smaller fishes.

Golden shiners are ideal for smaller and larger ponds because they can grow to sizes of 3-5 inches on average. Large shiners are typically stocked into established ponds with larger fish because they larger meal than that of a minnow.


Bait fish feed mostly on zooplankton and small insects and require little management. In addition, they will eat commercial feed alongside other fish species.


March-July and September- November