Live bait is a give and take proposition
Minnows. The prolific, natural bait presentation for late summer into fall is a great choice right now. Yet don't expect bait shops to have the preferred presentation every day.
Here's what you need to know; bait and tackle retailers have a tough time with minnows. They pay almost as much for a dozen of the tiny fish as you do. Most bait shops don't make a dime selling the frisky forage.
A busy week often ends with few minnows in the tanks on a weekend. Saturday morning greets a wide array of bait. Sunday evening or Monday morning usually offers fewer choices for the angler. Bait supplies simply deplete.
Understand that the bait shops and wholesalers have to caress the tiny vertebrates and ensure they stay alive overnight. Not to mention, minnow trappers actually have to capture a few of the critters to bring into the shops to sell.
Opening mornings typically consist of several swings with the minnow net, the departed succumbing to low oxygen, thunder storms, water temperature and a number of additional circumstances. Minnows are not easy to keep alive.
Minnow maintenance in captivity is hard enough. Selling live minnows is even more challenging.
Often times, anglers purchase their finned presentations from the bait shop and place them inside a submersible bait container, such as a Flow-Troll minnow bucket.
The short-term habitat proves sufficient so long as the bait tank water and the natural lake water are close in temperature.
This time of year, surface temperatures on the lakes have climbed to near 80-degrees.
Bait tank water temperature in the tackle shops stays very consistent at 55 to 65 degrees.
In other words, don't go to the bait shop and curse, cuss and berate the employees. If the bait dies, it's your own fault.
Want to keep minnows alive during the dog days of summer? Here are some tips.
First off, acclimate your bait. If you've purchased minnows in an airbag, set the entire inflated bag in the lake, without piercing it for about 45 minutes. Yes, some preparatory work goes into catching fish.
If using a submersible minnow bucket, add a cup of lake water every 15 minutes. This takes 45 minutes to acclimate the bait as well.
Aerated bait wells are an easier fix, since minnows can be introduced, the pump engaged immediately to offer freshwater to the bait, and most minnows will survive.
The challenge through the entire process is estimating how many minnows a boat- full of anglers will actually need. If there are leftovers, minnows cannot be legally dumped into the lakes; they must be thrown onto the shoreline or placed into a trash receptacle.
The same acclimation process should be followed with fish retained in the live well. Most will require acclimation, a process that entails consistent aeration and cool water temperatures. If a fish is placed in the live well it should be kept, not released.
And there are no worries about placing game fish into the same live well as the minnows, they rarely eat the extra bait!