DoorGunner

The mighty minnow.

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They go by different names in different areas and to make sure we are all on the same page I'm talking about the baitfish we use here in Jersey for summer flounder bait. 

mud minnow

 

They move in and out of our narrow tidal creeks in massive schools and are a total terror to any organism that is in front of them. They are just like piranha and rip anything they want to pieces in a matter of minutes. We have a tank set up at our dock to hold these minnows for sale and normally we hold about three gallons at a time. I feed them every day with a whole bunker with both sides cut and hanging down so they can get to the flesh. In about twenty minutes the bunker is reduced to a skeleton as their teeth just rip it apart. 

DSCN0456.jpg

 

When I first moved to the Jersey shore back in 83 I commercially caught and sold minnows to bait shops and marinas. Average day back then was around eighteen gallons of minnows. I have never been more impressed with any other fish in our system. One day as the tide was flowing out of a narrow tidal creek I was working I saw a full grown blueclaw crab moving down the creek as fast as it could ahead of a massive school of minnows also heading out with the tide. When the school passed I looked down and saw what was left of the big male. They had torn in apart and left nothing but empty pieces of shell. I have always said that if these minnows reached ten pounds we couldn't go into the water. 

 

Minnows are fun and easy to catch plus the big advantage is that catching your own allows you to hand pick the size you want and these minnows can reach lengths of six inches. Can't usually find that size in bait shops because they are usually sold by the pint or quart and it wouldn't take many that size to fill the order. I had one bait shop up in Philly who would order ten gallons of the biggest minnows I could catch for muskie bait but everyone else wanted a mix of average size to a few large to keep customers happy.

 

Here is a typical minnow trap that opens in the middle with two tapered holes so the minnows can just funnel in to get the bait. these work great, are easy to store and easier to throw if you can't get real close to the water.

Gee's® Minnow Trap Image 1 of 2

Notice the two holes at the end of the cones. I always want the largest minnows for myself and the holes that come as is are just too small to let the jumbos in so I take a broom handle and poke it through and work it around to make the hole about twice the factory size. 

Another method that works great is an umbrella style drop net.

 

Promar Umbrella Drop Nets - Black

This is great from docks and bulkheads where you can drop it straight down. I always look for this style with the side panels. When you pull the net the fish try to swim out but they hit the panels and come right back into the middle. You can see the eye bolt in the center where you tie your line. I also zip tie a bait clip to hang the bait from. This keeps the bait up so the crabs rip into it without destroying the netting. This style also folds up just like it's name, umbrella net for easy storage.

 

There is a right and wrong time for catching minnows. they move up and down the narrow tidal creeks by the tide. As it rises the school moves up but keeps to a certain depth for protection. Minnows want just enough water below them so a predator can't sneak in under them and just enough water above so the gulls and egrets can't get them. Shallow or deeper water is just a waste of time. At our dock with the drop net I have about a half hour of catch time. Once the water gets around two feet above the net they move on no matter how much food I have in the net. They just keep moving in under our dock to keep that perfect amount of water above and below them.

 

Caring for the minnows is very important so don't over load your live bait container. They will starve for oxygen and die. If you ever find your minnows dead with their gills wide open and also their mouths then they died from lack of oxygen. These guys can live in both fresh and salt water but you do need to take care of them. Change water as often as possible and they will reward you on the hook. 

 

Any questions just throw them out here. Love talking about the mighty minnow. 

Edited by DoorGunner

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Crushed crab is one of the best baits for them, we call them mud minnows down my way. Very tough bait, have kept 2 dozen in a bucket during fall with no aerator for a week.

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Mummichogs.  A type of killifish, but technically not minnows.  Call em what you will, as common names are like that. 

 

We've kept them all winter in aquaria as pets.   As mentioined, they are ruthless aggressive little buggers, and while we have all probably used them for bait, if you kept them in an aquarium and watched them, you'd likely develp a fondness for them.

 

They are tough as nails, can survive being hooked as bait in the dorsal, jaw, or eyes, and can go for hours on end with just a little moisture to prevent drying out.  

 

Crushed crab and cat/dog food work great, as mentioned.   We've brought them home form th bay and released them in vernal pools a hundred miles away only to recatch them later during a wet summer.   Amazing critters.

 

Those minnow traps are a must-have for anyone who has kids or likes ecology/is interested in the outdoors.   We've caught all sorts of stuff in them, including eels, skillets, shrimp, and a juvenile spotted trout.

 

Incidentally, we used to leave the traps out in the bay frequently with never a problem.  The past 2 years we went through 6 traps at various locations.  People suddenly dont want to spend the 8-12 bucks for their own. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, The Salty Fisherman said:

Always wondered if you could catch stripers on these if you live-lined them.  Any experience trying this?

Yes, with Freds bobber rig. That rig and a minnow and you never know what you will catch. Caught Stripers at high noon fluke fishing.

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2 hours ago, The Salty Fisherman said:

Always wondered if you could catch stripers on these if you live-lined them.  Any experience trying this?

Yes. I know of at least one guy who fishes them almost exclusively. Egg sinker rig with a mustad 34007 hook

 

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In through the bottom lip and out the top. Then try this. I take a bag of soft plastic worms and cut them into pieces. Then I take my bucktail and trim some of the hairs off to expose more of the bait. Put the minnow on then slip a piece of the worm over the hook so the minnow can't be bounced off the hook when a flounder strikes. From jigging you wear a larger hole in the minnows mouth and the piece of worm acts as a stopper.

DSCF5351.JPG.8999c990ecd22601c78ba95a741c1694.JPG

 

DSCF5349.JPG.56b667c23524428b1c2e457f92503d19.JPG 

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2 hours ago, The Salty Fisherman said:

Always wondered if you could catch stripers on these if you live-lined them.  Any experience trying this?

Yes definitely.. I fish mosquitoe drains in the summer that load up with them , bass def in there looking for them 

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11 mins ago, b4loran said:

Yes, with Freds bobber rig. That rig and a minnow and you never know what you will catch. Caught Stripers at high noon fluke fishing.

Great, I will have to try this out

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9 mins ago, DoorGunner said:

In through the bottom lip and out the top. Then try this. I take a bag of soft plastic worms and cut them into pieces. Then I take my bucktail and trim some of the hairs off to expose more of the bait. Put the minnow on then slip a piece of the worm over the hook so the minnow can't be bounced off the hook when a flounder strikes. From jigging you wear a larger hole in the minnows mouth and the piece of worm acts as a stopper.

DSCF5351.JPG.8999c990ecd22601c78ba95a741c1694.JPG

 

DSCF5349.JPG.56b667c23524428b1c2e457f92503d19.JPG 

That's a great idea

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4 mins ago, The Salty Fisherman said:

That's a great idea

Got tired a long time ago of having a hard strike then nothing including bait. Began looking at my minnow or strip bait like bluefish fillet or mackerel when I reeled in. Noticed the hook hole had worn larger from the jigging action and how easy it was for the bait to bounce right off the hook from a strike. Piece of worm did the trick. 

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