Tips for Extending the Life of Minnows in Live Bait Containers
The benefits of using live bait are numerous but the most convincing fact is that fish, whether they be trout, crappies or bass, are used to eating natural forage. Fishing with live bait takes all the guesswork out of trying to mimic natural food in the water. Often the most prolific live bait to fish with is minnows or some other type of baitfish. Few anglers use minnows or baitfish because most live bait containers fall short when it comes to keeping them alive.
Minnows are used less and less by anglers for three simple reasons. First, it is becoming more difficult to find bait shops who carry minnows. Second, there is additional time required to keep them alive before and during your fishing trip and third most live bait storage containers are hard to use efficiently while fishing.
The last reason is one of the biggest drawbacks to using minnows. Transporting them with traditional live bait containers is ineffective and limits you when you are on the water. Most strap-on bait containers are clunky and are not designed for easy access to minnows, both of which leads to angler frustration and dead minnows.
4 Tips on Keeping Minnows Alive While Fishing
Alive minnows and baitfish are much more effective at catching fish. They provide more action by swimming naturally, which tricks a fish into thinking it is just another passing meal rather than a trap. Here are four tips on keeping minnows alive for your next fishing trip.
- Constantly replace the water. Fresh water is the most important tip when it comes to keeping baitfish alive for extended periods of time. Stale water is warm, poorly oxygenated and contains toxins, all of which will reduce the lifespan of your minnows. Replace the water in your live bait storage containers regularly like every hour while fishing or as needed depending on its coloration or temperature. Be careful when replacing water so as not to lose any minnows. Bait storage containers like the innovative ones from Bait Up make it simple to change water without having to worry about losing any minnows.
- Not all water is the same. Avoid tap water as much as possible when filling your live bait containers because it can have additives that can be toxic to baitfish. Use water from a local stream or lake and if neither are convenient for you to access then buy natural spring water.
- Know your maximum capacity. Overfilling bait storage containers limits the amount of space each minnow has available to survive. Crowded live bait containers mean less oxygen for each minnow and more toxins they are exposed too. An overfilled minnow bucket will have more dead than alive minnows once you reach your fishing destination. For long-term storage, limit your containers to no more than two layers of minnows. When fishing, minnows can be crowded in more than two layers if you plan to fish through them in a single day.
- Minimize stress. Stress on baitfish can be caused by poor quality water like mentioned above or it can be from trying to grab one unsuccessfully time and time again from a poorly designed bait container. Most live bait containers are designed for transport, think bucket style containers, but those are not so great when it comes to pulling out a minnow to put on your hook. A good live bait storage container will reduce the time spent trying to net or grab a minnow and keep them alive longer.
From Live Bait Containers to Hooks
Fishing with live bait, especially minnows is relatively easy if you hook them correctly. A properly hooked minnow will do all the work for you by swimming around naturally enticing whatever it is you are fishing for.
Now that you have some tips to keep your minnows alive, there are a few different ways to hook one so it stays alive long enough to catch a fish. One way is to hook the minnow through its lips. The minnow can swim freely with this rig, but it will eventually die from the reduced water intake with its mouth being hooked shut. Another way to hook a minnow is through its back just in front of the dorsal fin. If you do not hit the spine, a minnow rigged this way will stay alive longer than one rigged in the mouth. Finally, you can hook a minnow through the tail. Even fishing with live bait, there are times when you encounter finicky fish. Hooking baitfish through the tail will let them swim more naturally and help to get more bites when fish are reluctant to commit.
One of the best ways to start fishing with minnows is threading or sewing a minnow.
Check out this video on how to fish with a minnow, going over exactly how to thread a minnow:
Extending The Life of Your Baitfish
Sometimes you may be planning a fishing trip that lasts several days or you may have to buy or catch minnows well in advance of when you plan to fish with them. Bait shops have the luxury of large commercial live bait tanks that most anglers do not have available. In those cases, you will have to replicate that environment without all the fancy equipment to keep them alive for an extended period of time.
How to keep baitfish alive at home is more than a five-gallon bucket with clean water every day or day. If you are going to keep minnows for more than a day, you will need some type of bait aerator system, a cooler and access to clean untreated water. Fill a cooler approximately two-thirds of the way full with spring water or water from a local stream. Start up your battery powered bait aerator to oxygenate the water before putting in the minnows. Add your baitfish and change about two-thirds of the water each day to keep them alive. If you plan to store them for more than 3 days you should plan to feed them once a day with generic fish food flakes. Once you are ready to fish, simply fill your Bait Up live bait container full and hit the water!
Live bait containers have a lot to do with how alive your minnows are when you go to reach for one for your hook. However, without effort on you part, you could be left with a few dozen dead, less attractive minnows when you hit the water. Use these tips on how to keep minnows alive to reel in more fish when you hit the water fishing with live bait.