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Keeping minnows alive worth extra steps By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | There’s a lot more to keeping bait — minnows or chubs — alive and active than simply tossing them into a bait bucket filled with water.

Minnow baits catch fish best when they are in good condition, not when they are oxygen-starved or stressed by water temperature.

Some minnows, especially shiners, creek chubs and redtails, can be really difficult to keep alive. That’s why you seldom see them in smaller bait shops. Aeration in their tanks has to be spot on, and aeration is expensive.

The biggest mistake you can make is putting too many bait fish in your bait bucket. Overcrowding will cause the bait to begin dying almost immediately.

In the fall months, water cools down and that certainly helps you keep your bait alive. Metabolism slows down in colder water and oxygen requirements are less. That helps. So, rule No. 1 is to keep your bait in cool water. Also, take care not to shock them by removing them from warm water and dunking them quickly into cold water. Add the cold water gradually.

Change the water often in your bait bucket. A couple of things are happening in your bait bucket. One is oxygen depletion. If your minnows are swimming to the surface, they need more oxygen. Dump out the old water and add new. The other thing is, fish release ammonia when they are confined. This can kill them. If you’ve ever had a tropical fish tank, you know about ammonia.

When it comes to baitfish water, I advise reading your fishing regulations carefully regarding the transporting of live bait. In an effort to stem the spread of invasives, many states have changed their laws regarding live bait. For instance, in South Dakota you must not use lake or stream water to transport your bait fish. Instead, you must use bottled water or tap water.

If you use tap water, you should remove the chlorine in it before putting in your bait. Pick up a small bottle of dechlorinator liquid from a pet store. One drop will be all you need to add to the bait bucket to ensure chlorine is gone.

The traditional bait bucket was the old galvanized pail with an insert into which the bait was placed. Those buckets have a lid that can be opened and as you lift the insert out, the water drains and you can select your bait fish. The insert can also be removed from the bucket and placed in the water over the gunwale of a boat or off a boat dock. They are still available, but most bait buckets today are made of plastic. They come in a variety of sizes. [Read more…]