Fathead minnows or Pimephales promelas are bait fish identified by their olive green backs that fade to a whiteish belly and a very faint spot at the base of the tail fin.
In the spring, the heads of spawning males becomes very dark and a yellowish band encircles the front half of the body making their head appear larger. The helmet-like appearance gives these fish their namesake.
Fathead minnows are short lived and generally die after spawning at 2 years of age. Fathead minnows spawn in late spring or early summer, some even spawn throughout the summer.
Male fatheads excavate a nest under a flat board or stone. The female lays sticky eggs on the roof of the board or stone. The male guards the nest and cares for the eggs until they hatch in 1 to 2 weeks.
Fathead minnows eat zooplankton, insects, crustaceans, algae and detritus (like dead leaves).
Fathead minnows are great bait fish for your larger predator fish like perch or black bass. Minnows are an important part of an aquatic ecosystem. Fatheads are easily trapped to use as live bait in your own pond. (**Never pull fish out of your pond to use as bait somewhere else.**)
Fathead minnows spawn in very shallow water making their fascinating spawning process easy to watch. In fact, you can provide spawning sites by placing flat boards or empty flowerpots on their sides and enjoy watching their mating rituals.
In healthy ponds, the general fish stocking rate of fathead minnows is 5 pounds per 1/4 acre pond.
Fathead minnows are generally available through local bait shops and fish farms. Customers near Rochester NY can pre-order minnows from National Pond Service for spring fish stocking and fall fish stocking.
Check with your state natural conservation department for a list of suppliers and any necessary permit requirements.