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Using minnows takes work

August 15, 2010
By BILL HARDING

In case you haven't noticed, it has been hot and dry. Serious anglers know that this type of weather leads to slow fishing. Some days even slow would be welcome as fish seem reluctant to eat at all.

Evening or night fishing seems to be my best bet and I am usually on the lake to watch the sun go down. Just about dusk I notice many swarms of minnows on the surface of the lake and this might also contribute to the slow fishing. With so much food readily available to predator fish, there is very little reason for them to hit an artificial lure. Rather than give up, however, I have switched to using minnows for bait. My theory is that a minnow on my hook might just look enough like easy prey to tempt a larger fish. It works. Sometimes.

Keeping minnows alive for more than a few hours has been a problem, but I think I have at least a partial solution. I started with a cooler in my basement workshop and that worked a little, but I still lost a lot of minnows. My next step was to add bottles of frozen lake water to keep the water temperature in the cooler, well, cooler. I then drilled a hole in the upper side of the cooler and added an aerator. This is the same type of aerator used in home aquariums.

Minnows lasted longer in the new setup, but I was forced to put them in a bucket of water every couple of days while I cleaned the cooler and added fresh water. It helped, but was a pain. I also lost nearly all my minnows if I forgot, or was too lazy, to change the water. Now I have an aquarium filter in the cooler and the water stays nice and clear. This is still a new setup so I'm not sure how it will work. Although it does seem to be doing the job.

Even with the cooler setup I still need to keep minnows lively while I fish. With temperatures reaching 90 degrees, a boat can be hot. My old style minnow buckets have been replaced with an insulated bucket with an attached aerator. Before going out on the lake I add a small medicine bottle of frozen lake water to the bucket and my minnows stay lively. It doesn't hurt that I am fishing from a pontoon boat and can find a slightly shady place for the bucket. Of course, the shade moves as the boat turns, but it helps.

Lately the fish have been hugging a couple of sunken brush piles and that is where I fish. I locate the brush with sonar and then toss a marker buoy overboard. The foot controlled electric trolling motor allows me to hold the boat close to the buoy. I then fish vertically.

In hot weather fish tend to bite delicately and it takes a sensitive rod to feel the nibble. My preference is a 6' 6" light action spinning rod and reel spooled with 6 or 8 pound test line. I could use lighter line, but sometimes a bass or walleye hits my minnow and I need to keep them out of the brush without breaking the line.

The terminal tackle consists of a #4 Tru-Turn hook. A split shot is crimped to the line about 8" above the hook. That completes my tackle, although if I were fishing from shore I would add a lightweight slip bobber.

There are basically two ways to hook a minnow and each is a compromise. I prefer to hook them through both lips as I feel this allows the minnow to act more lively. When the fish hits short I miss a few bites with this method. Kenny Davis hooks his minnows through the back below the dorsal fin and it works for him. With this method the minnow might not look so lifelike, but it seems superior in hooking success.

Every species of fish will take a properly presented minnow and this hot spell might be the only way to have success. Minnows will cost you about $2 a dozen, but they are worth it. Just give some thought to keeping them fresh and lively by adding a bottle of frozen water. Just make sure you use lake or stream water, or even rain water. If chlorine treated tap water leaks into your minnow supply you will be fishing with dead bait and not live bait.

 
 

 

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