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Catch your own live minnows, shiners, chubs, suckers, & other baitfish

Catch your own live minnows, shiners, chubs, suckers, & other baitfish

'Minnow' is a widely used term often referring to any small baitfish or juvenile predator fish that can be used as bait. However, true minnows are actually those species that are a part of the Cyprinidae family, so we'll try to use the term 'baitfish' here.

There are many types and species of fish that are great to use for bait. Baitfish are especially good bait when fishing for Channel Catfish, Lake Trout (Mackinaw), large Cutthroats, Walleye, Bass, and any other large predator, especially those who are primarily piscivorous (fish-eating).

Remember that fishing with live baitfish is illegal in the state of Utah! It is also illegal to transport baitfish live, so, remember that you must kill any that you catch before taking them home or using them for bait!

Some species of baitfish that are available (and legal) to use for bait in Utah include:

The following are some species of gamefish that can be used for bait, but only on certain waters.

Once you have caught your baitfish I suggest you freeze them in packages of about a dozen. If you have a vacuum sealer, that is the best. However, if you do not, it is best to use stout plastic (not ziplock).

First, carefully arrange the minnows so that they are straight and not bent. Add just a small amount (teaspoon or so) of water and squeeze out all of the air bubbles before twisting and rubber banding the bag. This prevents freezer burn and the minnows are "fresher" when you thaw them.

One of the most effective ways to fish minnows is to hook them up through the head, with a size six or eight hook...depending on the size of the bait and the type fish you are going after. Do not use weight unless you have to cast farther than you can pitch the minnow without weight. Then use the lightest weight you can...or a small bubble with just enough water to allow a slow, natural sink. That is what you want...to make the fish think they are being served a minnow that has just croaked.

This works especially well in clearer waters, where trout, bass, walleye and other predators can see the sinking minnow from a distance. But, it is also effective on finicky cats, or other fish in murkier water, that would reject a bait if they felt too much resistance...like from a sinker. You can add to the finesse approach by leaving the bail open on your reel and allowing the fish to take some line before setting the hook. On some days, that will not be necessary, because the fish will gulp and go. But, on other days, they pick it up and drop it a couple of times before getting it down far enough for a good hookset.

While minnows are bunched up in schools you can seine, scoop or cast them by the thousands. Hint, you can sometimes get a bunch by dropping a minnow trap around the docks in the harbors, baited with a piece of bread.

If using large chubs or small suckers for bait, it can be a good idea to scale them, fillet them and then use the scaled (skin on) fillets either whole or cut into smaller strips. These work well by themselves or as additions to jigs, as a 'sweetener'.