Hiodon alosoides


Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Hiodon, from the Greek, "toothed hyoid"
  • alosoides, from the Greek and Latin, "shad-like"
  • Common Name from the large, yellow eye
  • Other common names include: Herring; Lake Herring


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
    • Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Osteoglossomorpha
        • Order Osteoglossiformes, bonytongues
        • Suborder Notopteroidei
          • Family Hiodontidae, the mooneyes
            • Genus Hiodon, the mooneyes


  • A smaller fish more valued in Canada than the States.
  • Length 8"-12"
  • Weight under a pound
  • Coloration
    • back dark-blue to blue-green
    • sides silver
    • belly white
    • brownish edges to scales lend the fish a tan colored appearance
  • Body
    • deep in proportion to its length
    • sharp keel on belly
    • dorsal fin of 9-10 rays
    • covered with large, loose scales
  • Head
    • small, blunt head
    • short, bluntly rounded snout
    • eye large and yellow
    • mouth small
    • teeth many, small and sharp, on jaws and tongue
  • Essentially nocturnal, with eyes adapted to dim light conditions of turbid waters.


  • Field Marks
    • Compressed, white or silvery blue, streamlined body
    • Bluntly-rounded snout, large mouth,
    • Large eyes with bright yellow iris, set in a small head.
  • Distinguished from the closely related Mooneye (Hiodon tergisus) by
    • yellow colour of the eyes
    • position of the anal fin, which begins farther forward than the dorsal fin
    • dorsal fin of 9-10, rather than 11-12 rays.


  • Northwest Territories south through the Midwest to Louisiana and Mississippi.
  • Found in all Minnesota drainages except the Superior.


  • Warm, silty, slow-moving waters of large rivers and in quiet shallow lakes, backwaters, ponds, and marshes connected to them. Also muddy shallows of larger lakes.
  • Major cause of decline is deterioration of water quality. Vulnerable to over fishing.


  • Mainly surface feeders in shallow water, consuming insects, snails and other fish, including grasshoppers, moths, fireflies, crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, shrews, mice, trout perch, shiners, darters, and perch.
  • Young feed mainly on microscopic crustaceans.
  • More omnivorous than its cousin the Mooneye (Hiodon tergisus)
  • Voracious hunters, preyed upon in turn by Northern Pike (Esox lucius), Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum), birds, and mammals.


  • U.S. Record: 3 lb. 13 oz, from the Oahe Tailwater, South Dakota, 1987
  • Minnesota Record: 2lb 6oz, from the Root River (Houston County)


  • Lake Winnipeg was once the largest producer of these fish, but stocks there were almost wiped out in the 1920's from overfishing. Today the main fishery is centred in the North and South Saskatchewan River. Commercial fishermen use gillnets.
  • When fresh, the flesh of the goldeye is soft and unpalatable. When smoke-cured it is sold as Winnipeg goldeye and commands a high price.
  • Said to be as sporty as a trout when taken on light tackle with flies but not currently a popular fish with anglers.


  • Overwinters in deeper areas of lakes and rivers, moving to shallow, firm-bottomed spawning sites from May to the first week in July.
  • Prefers slow currents over gravelly or rocky lake and river bottoms. Eggs are shed randomly over the bottom without nest or adult care.
  • Annual migrations of immature Goldeye can exceed 600 miles.



Boreal border

Last updated on 22 October 1999