During the hot months of summer, fishermen often resort to live bait with minnows the overhelming first choice. While most bait and tackle stores sell minnows, there are advantages to catching your own.
If you fish a lot, econimics come into play. At $1 to $1.50 a dozen, it doesn't take many trips to the bait shop to dent a pocketbook.
More important in most cases is simple convenience. Even if there is a bait store on the way to the fishing hole, it may be closed early in the morning or not have the size minnows you prefer. Also, minnows taken from a feeder creek often seem to have more appeal to game fish than storebought specimens.
The outdoorsman who keeps a few inexpensive pieces of equipment handy in the car have a bucketful or squirming minnows in a matter of minutes. Rare is the route to a fishing hole that doesn't pass by a number of creeks that are prime baitfish territory.
There are three or four common methods of catching minnows. Some anglers favor umbrella traps baited with bread and lifted when the minnows swim over them; others use cylindrical) traps with small entrance holes whre the fish swim in but can't get out. Some fanatics even take tiny hooks and sewing thread and catch their baitfish on hook and line.
The most consistent and quickest way to get minnows, however, is to seine them. Seines are available in most sporting goods stores in lengths of 4 by 4 to 4 by 12 feet. For beginners, the 4 by 6 or 4 by 8 sizes are easiest to handle. In Maryland, you'll have to stick to the six-foot length, since anything longer than that is illegal.
The nets come without handles but you can fashion your own out of discarded cane pole sections of broom sticks. The only other equipment needed is a bucket to put the minnows in and waders, if you like dry feet.
Small creeks are generally the most productive places to catch minnows. The best ones flow five to 10 feet wide and not more than three or four feet deep. Surprisingly, minnows thrive in many creeks only minutes from Washington. Once you get 10 or 20 miles out, practically every small creek has its share of baitfish.
Permission to seine should be obtained in advance if the stream flows through private property.
Seining consists of scooping through the pool with the net and dragging out the minnows. If a pool is only five or 10 feet long, you can seine the entire hole with one scoop. A longer pool is covered in small sections.
Seining should proceed with a slow, fluid motion. Keep the handles stretched wide and the net on the bottom so no fish sneak out underneath. Gradually scoop through the pool. working toward shore.
Take the net a short distance up on shore and pick out the size and variety of minnows you want to fish with. This accomplished return the seine to the water and shake any small, unwanted minnows back into the stream.
Pools often hold the largest minnows, but in summer it's best not to overlook the riffles, either. Minnows often flock to these shallow stretches for the same reason game fish do cool, oxygenated water.
On a good stream, it shouldn't take more than the or four scoops to fill the minnow bucket, once you get a feel for the procedure.
The shores of lakes and rivers also can yield a bundle of minnows, but these are best seined at night, with two people required. One shines the light along a shallow stretch of shore-line while the other seines slowly up the edge of the bank, scooping quickly into shore when minnows show in the mikly beam of light. This is a particularly effective method for big frisky shiners - prime bass bait.
Regular metal or plastic minnow buckets can be used to transport the bait to the fishing spot, but a plastic foam cooler works better because it retains the oxygen in the water and keeps the temperature down.