Unlike mayflies and nightcrawlers, minnows are available to trout as a food source all the time. Because of this, when used properly, live minnows will out fish just about every other type of lure or bait. Although they are such an effective bait, many anglers don't use minnows because of the difficulties associated with them; they're fragile, hard to transport and difficult to handle. Nevertheless, those choosing to use minnows can apply some simple rigging and fishing techniques to improve their catches this spring.
Fishermen should use properly matched tackle when going after trout with minnows. Light rods with "slow" actions are good choices. Slow action means a rod is flexible throughout its whole length, as opposed to a "fast" rod, which only flexes at the tip. A slow-action rod allows a minnow to be cast more delicately, without being ripped from the hook. Light lines in the 2 to 4-lb. test range and smaller hooks (size 8 or 10) are also in order. Light lines and small hooks permit minnows to swim more freely, and offers a more natural presentation to hungry trout.
One of the biggest drawbacks to using minnows is that they are difficult to transport. Specially made strap-on minnow buckets are available to anglers who prefer to cover lots of water when trout fishing. Keeping them alive is another challenge. Constant replacement of the water in the bucket with stream water will acclimatize minnows to a stream's temperature and keep them lively.
There are several ways to bait a minnow on a hook. The first is to simply hook the minnow through its upper and lower lips. This way allows the minnow to swim relatively freely, however it keeps the small fish from drawing water into its gills, so it eventually dies. Another way is to hook the minnow through its back, in front of the dorsal fin. If care is taken to pierce only the skin and not the spine, this method will keep a minnow alive for a longer time. A third way is to thread the line through the mouth and out the anal vent with a needle, tie on the hook and then pull the line back through until just the bend of the hook is exposed. Though minnows don't survive as long when rigged in this manner, the advantage is that they will stay on the hook during repeated casting. This is a good setup for rough water conditions that would tear a differently rigged minnow from the hook. In fast water, a dead minnow will often work as well as a live one.
Fishing a live minnow is relatively easy; by swimming around, the minnow does most of the work. Anglers should concentrate on deep areas of slack water. Slow-moving pools and water backed up by a fallen tree are good places because they allow a minnow to move around naturally, without being swept away by the current. A small split shot attached to the line will help get a minnow down in deeper water. Though it might not appeal to all trout anglers, no one can dispute the effectiveness of fishing with live bait. Furthermore, bait anglers would have a difficult time trying to come up with anything more potent than the venerable live minnow.
| Editor's Note:|
For anglers with easy access to water, it's easy to catch your own minnows with Cabela's Minnow Traps. Minnows that are caught and fished in the same water generally live longer as well.
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