Saturday, January 31, 2015

How To Keep Your Minnows Alive This Winter

Winters in the Midwest can be brutal, especially when it comes to keeping bait alive.  Just a few hours of sitting out in the elements can change a bucket full of lively minnows into a deadly tomb of ice.  There are however, a few ways of preventing lifeless, frozen minnow buckets.

For starters, it is important to make sure that the minnows have plenty of water.  Standard styrofoam minnow pails are usually too small and do not hold enough water during the winter months.  A five gallon pail has more room for a sufficient amount of water during the winter.  The color of the pail should also be considered in the winter.  A black pail with a black lid is ideal in the winter since the sun will act as a heater on the black pail during the day, preventing the water from freezing even in the coldest of conditions.  A black pail with a styrofoam liner would be ideal, providing the styrofoam liner was nearly as tall as the pail.

Today there are many buckets with built in battery powered aerators attached to them.  While these buckets work great, you have to also realize that you can buy quite a few minnows for the cost of these high tech minnow buckets!  Generally your minnows will be just fine during a day of ice fishing as long as you change the water a couple of times, make sure they don't freeze up, and also don't have too many minnows in a bucket.

Once returning home from a day on the ice immediately removing any dead minnows from the bucket and placing an aerator into the bucket will give your minnows a fighting chance at staying alive until your next voyage onto the ice. When dead minnows remain in your bucket, they continue to break down, which causes the water quality to decline which in turn put more stress on the remaining minnows and will kill the weaker ones.  A simple pet store aerator pump and a few of the larger air stones are all that you need to keep you bucket filled with sufficient oxygen for your minnows.

Keeping your minnows in an insulated garage is ideal, as the temperature should remain just above freezing for most of the winter.  If you do not have this convenience, it may be necessary to bring your bucket inside daily to allow the ice build up to melt.  When doing this, make sure not to let the minnows warm up too much, as the temperature swing can cause them to die as well.

Another key to keeping minnows alive in the winter between fishing trips is to change the water every couple days using non tap water.  Sump pit water works well, as does well water.  Regular tap water may be used, just be sure to add a de-chlorinating solution that you would use for a fish tank.  Once you have added the proper amount of solution, you must then set the water outside to allow to cool to the temperature of the water that the minnows are currently occupying.

There are also several products available that will help keep your minnows lively.  Bait Saver products balance the water your minnows are in, lower minnow stress, provide the minnows with an extra protective slime coat, any may even add electrolytes which are known to keep minnows lively.

With a little extra effort and a good understanding of the needs of your minnows, you should have no problem extending the life of your next batch of minnows!  It may take a little extra work, but with the price of minnows these days it is more than worth it!

Monday, January 26, 2015

January Pike Report

Well it has been a few years since I have targeted Pike on Tipups here in Northeast Wisconsin, since I had been determined to figure out the Great Lakes Trout every chance I had!  Let me tell you it was a great change of pace being surrounded by tip ups and a great group of guys!

Our morning started off with the first flag popping at around 7:30.  To our surprise, the fish had taken a hot dog on a treble hook, a secret weapon for big Pike!

After a solid battle, my good friend Derek guided a 31.5" Pike through the hole!  This was a great start to our day, as all the tip ups hadn't even been deployed yet.  It also made for great conversation, as none of the other guys had ever heard of using hot dogs as bait!

A little while later we had two flags pop within seconds of one another!  This time we were less fortunate, as one was a 8" Perch and the other managed to get our Shiner but not the hook!  Despite the missed opportunity, we knew we were in for an action packed day of chasing flags on the ice!

It wasn't more than 20 minutes when another flag tripped.  As we approached the tip up we noticed the spool slowly spinning, then it stopped for a few seconds, before the fish took off again!  This time Chris was able to hook the fish, and was quickly fighting another scrappy Pike.  This fish turned out to be smaller than the first one, but still reached that 26" mark.

There was a lull in our action, but in the midst of it a father and his young son landed a 35" Pike, which was really cool to watch from a distance as the two worked together to ice the beauty!  We all decided that a little game of football would get the fish to bite, so we setup a field and were about to play when a flag went up!  The five of us all ran over to the hole where Chris told me to take it even though it was his tip up.  I took him up on the offer and was able to land a 34" Pike after several big runs on a 10 pound leader!

The football trick worked so well that we quickly went back to playing!  By third down of the first drive we noticed another flag up and once again went running!  This fish somehow managed to swim right at us and spit the hook after a brief battle.  You win some, you lose some in this game, so we simply reset the tip up and headed back for the football field.

After several possessions of football each and every one of us were wore right out, so we decided to give the football thing a break and go and check our tip ups.  We found that one of the tip ups had a fish take most of the line without tripping the flag, and then dropped the minnow.

My wife and son also decided to stop out on the ice for a bit as the weather and fishing were too nice to pass up getting my son on the ice for his first ice fishing experience!  As they arrived, the fish went on a feeding frenzy, as we caught 3 and had one break us off over the next 45 minutes!  I couldn't have planned that out any better as my son was able to watch 3 nice Pike hit the ice!

We also had a livewell in the ice where he was able to see the fish which he thought was the coolest thing!  We also attempted to catch some Perch, but unfortunately they didn't cooperate during my son's two minute attention span!

After such a long lull away from Pike fishing, I must say that great friends and family make for great memories on the ice!  All of us had a blast, and hope to get back at it again in the near future!