Minnow Trapping: Get Started

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We have it easy. No, we really do. Do you ever stop to think about where your minnows came from when you run to the bait shop to buy them? Sure, it is easy to drive there, have them scooped into a bag, pay for them and head out. But do you ever stop to think about the process involved in trapping them? Maybe you’ve said, “gosh that is something I’d like to try”? Well, let’s get you started!

Many of us who minnow trap keep our streams and rivers secret (for good reason). It is like those of us with good fishing spots, you will not hear a peep about where they are located. If you are lucky enough to tag along, remember that the person taking you trusts that you: a. will not tell anyone, and b. will not steal their spot to do trapping of your own.

minnow traps

The Basics of Minnow Trapping

Prepping Your Minnow Traps

Before you begin, you want to make sure you have the proper equipment to hold minnows after you retrieve them from your traps. If you will not be using them right away, you will want to look at creating or buying a holding tank or cooler. For us, we find that either working freezers or non-working freezers work the best. They allow adequate space for the minnows and keep the water cold. If you are using a non-working freezer, you may have to freeze jugs of water to place in the freezer when temps rise.

An old cooler can suffice if the number of minnows you plan on keeping is small. Our freezer is equipped with a pump that has a built-in filter that moves water continuously around and helps to keep the water clean. Typically, we will fill five-gallon buckets with tap water the night before and place them outside for at least 12-24 hours. Once the water is acclimated, we put it into the tanks. We also use a water conditioner called Better Bait, which helps keep our minnows alive longer.

There are various traps you can purchase on the market; we prefer torpedo traps. We use dog food tied into old pantyhose to attract minnows into the trap. I have heard of others who use crackers, cookies, and even foil to attract minnows. Keep in mind, that your traps need to be tended to on a regular basis. In Minnesota, traps must be emptied once every 72 hours from April 1 to October 31, and once every seven days from November 1 to March 31.

On your trap, you need to also include a tag that details your name, address, and fishing license number. Make sure this tag is waterproof. Every state differs with regulations, so make sure to read them before setting traps. If you are looking to sell minnows, you will also need to obtain a commercial dealer’s license.

how to build a minnow trap

Placing Minnow Traps

Minnows love moving water. You will want to place your traps into pools of water or bends in the stream. Minnows will tend to rest in areas where the water is moving slower and make their way into the traps. Make sure that the openings on your trap are facing the moving water (not sideways) so the minnows can naturally swim into the trap.

Picking Up Minnow Traps

When we retrieve our minnows, we bring along the water in an old cooler with a bubbler. Our Frabill bait station with built-in bubbler also works very well. Remember, the faster you can get minnows home into your holding tank the better. Keep in mind on extremely hot days, it is very stressful for the minnows to be in small, stagnant water. Lastly, make sure to have fun with it!

We love taking our son out with us to retrieve the traps, and he loves watching his fish. It can be some of the most peaceful time you will spend in the outdoors, watching minnows swim around you while the water flows. Enjoy!

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