"Minnow" is a generic term, often used to refer to small freshwater and saltwater fish. True minnows are small freshwater species of the carp family. Minnows are most commonly used as bait, and are caught using seine nets in the ocean, and mesh nets in freshwater. Bait minnows are used to catch any species of fish that are larger than they are.
The bigeye chub (Hybopsis amblops) resides in clear, cool water. Its intolerance for silt and murk has garnered this minnow the reputation of indicating good water quality. A silvery minnow with transparent fins, the bigeye chub sports a dark line across its nose and down both sides. Adults can reach 4 inches. It can be found in clean rivers and streams of the mid-eastern United States. Bigeye chubs eat the aquatic young of invertebrate insects such as stone flies and mayflies.
Native to clear tributaries and streams throughout the north-central United States, the bigmouth shiner (Notropis dorsalis) is a small, compact minnow with a long upper jaw and transparent fins. Silvery-sandy colored, the bigmouth shiner can be identified by the dark dorsal line that marks its back. During the night, the bigmouth shiner hunts stream beds for aquatic insects, preferring low-gradient streams and water that is clear of algae or vegetation. Despite habitat fragmentation due to agriculture, the bigmouth shiner is a common minnow, and not vulnerable to population decline.
Inhabiting streams and river basins up and down the East Coast, the bluntnose minnow (Pimephales notatus) is the most common freshwater fish in the U.S. Ranging from 2.5 to 4 inches in adulthood, the bluntnose minnow is recognizable due to small dark spots on its dorsal fin and light olive upper body. A single dark stripe runs down both sides of the bluntnose minnow, ending with a large dark-colored dot on either side of its tail fin. The bluntnose minnow is an algae eater, in addition to feeding on aquatic immature insects.
The comely shiner (Notropis amoenus) is a slender minnow with a pointed nose, and a dorsal fin that is uniquely placed farther back on the fish than on most minnows. A bright silver fish, the comely shiner can be spotted in small, clean pools and runoffs of medium to large rivers throughout the northeastern United States. Like other minnows, the comely shiner primarily feeds on aquatic immature insects, preferring to hunt in areas of gravel or silt substrate.