Minnows are a huge family of fish. North America has over 230 species – let’s check out a type that lives in my backyard.
The Western Blacknose Dace is a small, slender minnow that grows to about three inches long. During the Winter this fish often wedges itself under rocks, where it is quite sluggish as it patiently waits out the cold weather.
Its species name, atratulus, is derived from a word that means “clothed in black.” Sprinkled along the sides are dark scales that give the fish a spotted appearance. The fish’s most obvious characteristic is its black side stripe. The stripe runs from the snout through the eye, and along the length of the side to the tail.
These fish are creatures of flowing water. Although they thrive in stream pools as well as rocky riffles, they won’t be found in the still water of lakes and ponds. Dace feed on many types of aquatic insects, worms and algae.
During breeding season, the male’s black side stripe transforms into beautiful red-orange hue. Here’s a male that I caught in the Summer. At this time a male will stake out a territory and guard a bit of underwater turf against other male minnows. The male circles the area and seems to “dance” to attract females.
Many fishing lures have been modeled after the Western Black-nosed Dace, because this fish is known to be a favorite prey item for many sport fish, especially trout.
The humble dace is a wonderful river species that inhabits tiny little streams to huge waterways.