How to Fish With a Minnow? Guide to Minnow Fishing!

How to Fish With a Minnow

Sometimes, live baits are the best ones you can use to catch a desired fish. And among live baits, minnows are one of the best!

They can easily be caught, hooking them requires some practice but it is not that hard, and their movement will attract fish better than any lure on the market.

Before you head out to the nearest lake, learn the theory and prepare yourself for the experience.

Here I am going to give you the basic advice on how to fish with a minnow in the following chapters:

How do you Catch a Fish With Minnows? Best Tips ...
Do you Have to Use a Bobber with Minnows?
What is the Best Way to Hook a Minnow for Fishing?
What is the Best Way to Catch Minnows?
How Long do Bait Minnows Live?
Will Fish Bite Dead Minnows?
Which Fish Eat Minnows?
Are Minnow Artificial Lures Good for Fishing?



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How do you Catch a Fish With Minnows? Best Tips ...

When you fish with minnows, you don’t have to think about choosing the right lure size or colour and you don’t have to think a lot about bait presentations.

As regular food source to many predatory fish, minnows are naturally attractive to them.

For a minnow to be a good bait, it has to be healthy and lively too. So, pay attention to minnow storage.

Here are a few general tips on how to fish with a minnow:

• Minnows are sensitive to water temperature changes. Try to keep them in a bucket that has similar temperature as the lake. If you buy them, slowly adjust the water temperature not to kill them or shorten their lifespan.

• Minnows work very well in cooler waters. Fishing with a minnow in extremely warm conditions is not advisable.

Replace the water in the bucket frequently to keep the minnows alive and healthy.

Cast very gently because hard impacts could kill a minnow.

• Be careful when choosing a bait presentation location. Live minnows can find tiny hideouts and be useless as a bait if a targeted fish can’t reach them.

• To keep them alive longer you can feed them with goldfish food from a local pet store.

Water in the bucket has to be oxygenated. If you want to provide the best possible conditions for minnows, invest in a battery-powered portable aerator. Buy only those which are quiet when operating. Loud noises can have a negative impact on minnows.

Do you Have to Use a Bobber with Minnows?

A lot of anglers, and not just beginners, think that you absolutely have to use a bobber when fishing with minnows.

While using a bobber is the easiest way, that doesn’t mean it is the only way!

Bobbers are essential for shallow fishing with minnows. To practice this technique, you will need a bobber, hook, bobber stopper, split shot, and of course, a minnow.

Bobber stoppers are there to control how deep your bait goes. Minnow should be about 45 centimetres away from the float. Use a float that you can cast easily, in order to avoid minnow injuries.

If you would like to fish without a bobber, you can attach a minnow on a hook at the end of your fishing line and add a sinker 45 centimetres up the line.

Make sure you choose a suitable sinker because the minnow will try to swim away, and although minnows are small and weak, they will influence the sinker more than regular baits.

This technique is better for deeper locations. It works the best if you have a fish finder, or any kind of devices that show you underwater structures, to know where and how deep you will have to go.

The last possibility is a free line technique, where you use only the line and a hook, but this technique, as simple as it sounds, is not suitable for beginners.

In my opinion, if you are new to fishing with live minnows, you should use a bobber setup and choose the location accordingly. Bobber setup with a minnow is great to catch bass, crappies or catfish.

What is the Best Way to Hook a Minnow for Fishing?

Hooking a minnow correctly is something that requires a bit of practice, but given enough time, anyone can master this skill.

When handling live bait, you have to be careful and gentle not to hurt it.

When it comes to hooking it, if you do it wrong, the bait will either run away from the hook, or die fast due to injuries.

There are three ways to hook a minnow and those are the following:

Lip hook

Hooking a minnow through the lip is probably the easiest way for beginners.

You can cast it a few times, minnow will be able to move, but unfortunately, it will not stay alive for a long time.

To hook it trough the lips, pierce both the upper and the bottom lip with a hook.

Dorsal hook

Dorsal hook enables the minnow to move, and it will stay alive for a long time if this is done right.

However, you are risking to kill a minnow if you pierce them too deep, trough the spine.

It should be done through the back, in front of the dorsal fin, but not too deep. On the other hand, if it is too shallow, the minnow could fall off when casting.

This method is great for more experienced anglers.

Mouth-Gill hook

This method is the hardest one to do, but also the one that holds the minnow the best. Unfortunately, the minnow will die soon and multiple casting is not an option.

This method is for experienced anglers who like to fish with minnows on faster waters.

The hook should go through the minnow mouth and end up behind the gills where it goes out of the body. If the minnow is very small, this can be tricky to do.

What is the Best Way to Catch Minnows?

As already mentioned, minnows can be bought, but catching them has some advantages.

You will always have fresh ones, they are free, and catching minnows can be a valuable experience.

Catching minnows is easy when you know where to find them.

The easiest way to do so is to buy a trap. These traps have a cylindrical shape with openings on the ends, where fish can easily enter, but can’t get out. If you want, you can build a trap by yourself.

Minnows like to congregate in locations like tree roots or rocks that are great hiding places.

And to attract them, you can use baits as simple and cheap as bread.

Add food in the trap. You can use anything like pet food, insects, or similar. You can wrap the food in a fine mesh not to drift away, especially if the trap is placed in a strong current. Minnows will go upstream, so position the opening in that direction.

Place the trap in a relatively shallow water near natural minnow hiding places and tie it.

Leave the trap in the water for a few hours. Take it out and it should be filled with minnows.

This process is easy and can be done by almost anyone. Just make sure you release very small specimens in order to keep a healthy minnow population.

Place the minnows in a bucket and your live bait is ready to use!

How Long do Bait Minnows Live?

It depends on a temperature, oxygen level, how you take care of them and how many of them are sharing the same bucket.

If the conditions are right, and you feed them regularly, they can live about 24 hours. If you really make an effort, you can prolong it up to 72 hours. To keep them alive for three days you will have to clean the water, use an aerator, store minnows in multiple buckets to have just a few per bucket and keep the bucket in an optimal temperature. Changing the water partially on a daily basis is also necessary.

Unfortunately, it is not easy to maintain the desired conditions, especially the temperature part.

If you are camping outside in a hot day, there is no way to keep the water cool enough for minnows to thrive.

If you want to have live and energetic minnows every day, use a minnow trap daily to have new ones every day. In normal conditions with some medium level of care, minnows will live about one day.

Will Fish Bite Dead Minnows?

The answer is YES, fish will bite dead minnows.

We all know that live ones are better, but if a minnow dies in your bait bucket, you can still use it. It will lack that natural motion, so you will have to try a bit harder. If the minnow recently died, there is no reason not to use it, if the fish are feeding aggressively.

Live minnows have certain scent too, and the predatory fish can feel it. If the minnow if “freshly” dead, it could still attract a number of fish species.

If you have a bad fishing day (if that even exists) and fish are not biting, dead minnow will probably be a waste of time.

If the minnow died some time ago and it started decomposing, your chances are minimal. Predatory fish usually eat live bait, and the smell of dead decomposing one won’t be attractive. Even species that like smelly bait, like catfish, avoid the smell of half-rotten animals.

Which Fish Eat Minnows?

Minnow are natural food source for a variety of fish species interesting to anglers. Many of them will gladly bite on a minnow and that is why they are such a good bait.


Smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass are the ones that like minnows the most.


When catching crappies, it is best to hook a minnow through the lips. Crappies absolutely love minnows and they are among the best baits for them.

Chain Pickerel

Pickerel loves a good minnow, especially during colder days, although if the conditions are right it will work in summer too.


All kinds of trout like minnows, and you can try them in both lakes and rivers. If you are fishing in a river, let the minnow drift with the current. The best way to hook it in a strong current would be trough the mouth and gill.

Yellow Perch and Bluegill

These two species love minnows, but unfortunately, minnows are good for larger specimens, not small to medium ones.


Pike can be very aggressive and the best way to present a minnow to pike is to hook them in front of the dorsal fin.


Most of the catfish species like minnows, and other live baits. Minnows are quite small so it is best to target medium sized catfish. Minnows work best in spring and fall when the catfish are not deep on the bottom.

Are Minnow Artificial Lures Good for Fishing?

Artificial minnows have certain advantages ...

One can be used a lot of times, it resembles the real one and when considering the price of a lure or live minnows bought in a store, artificial ones are cheaper in the long run.

If you catch them yourself, then the price is not an issue.

Besides, you keep a lure inside of your tackle box and don’t have to feed it or change the water.

Live bait has natural scent and movement that an artificial one lacks. You can always use different attractants but it is not the same.

Lures do not require complicated hooking procedure, but unlike live minnows, they produce a certain movement only if you do it.

Working a lure can seem easy but in areas with a lot of obstacles, it can be tricky.

You will have to practice a lot to do it in a way that a hungry fish does not suspect anything.

Artificial minnows, and artificial lures in general, are great to have. They are efficient and many anglers use them a lot.

Both live bait and lures have certain advantages and disadvantages and their success depends on numerous factors.

How to Fish With a Minnow - Artificial Lures


Now, when you know how to fish with a minnow, you should think about trying it.

These versatile live baits can catch almost any predatory fish and using them is quite fun.

If you don’t know how to handle them, don’t worry, even a dead one can catch a fish. Beginners probably wont buy aerators and similar devices to keep them alive but you can still have a good one-day fishing trip with a bucket of minnows.

Try following basic principles stated here and prepare for a good catch!

And one more tip in the end, when the fish bites, don’t wait a long time to set the hook. In case the fish swallows the minnow, it will be very hard to remove the hook, especially if you want/have to release the fish.

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