The Atlantic Silverside: an Essential Forage Fish
“In the shallow waters of the Atlantic all the way from the chilly reaches of Prince Edward Sound to the ever-warm Florida shores, the silverside was then, and is now, an ecologically important baitfish. It spends the majority of its life tight to the coastline or swimming the rich tidal estuaries. Here, where land and sea meet, the silverside is one of the most numerous inhabitants. Given this abundance, you can bet Mother Nature has placed it high on the menu of many fine gamefish. Stripers, bluefish, bonito, weakfish, and false albacore all hunt and consume this shiny fish—and all coastal fly-rodders would do well to be so informed.”
Those are the opening sentences to an article I wrote on silversides for Fly Fishing Quarterly way back in the summer of 1992. Today, some thirty years later, they still ring true. The Atlantic silverside, Menidia media, is an essential forage fish. And thankfully, it is easy to match with a fly. Typically silversides range in size from two inches to about five. They are a bit translucent, with a tannish, pale olive coloration and a large eye. But the most prominent feature is a distinctive silver lateral line, extending from just behind the pectoral fin to the tail. And it is this that any fly pattern should not fail to mimic.
The earliest known silverside imitation is Harold Gibbs Striper Bucktail, created around World War II. Standard saltwater flies such as Lefty’s Deceivers and Bob Clousers’ Deep Minnow are easily adapted, and today epoxy and UV acrylic flies like Bob Popovic’s Surf Candy are in wide spread use. (Be aware that in some places the silverside is called a spearing. You may even hear it referred to as a – glass minnow, rain bait, or white bait.)