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!

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