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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
A question for those of you that are lucky enough to live by the water. I have not been down there lately. Are the back bays and little channels frozen? Last year we had a shortage of minnows that I heard was from the water being frozen solid in the back. Are we going to see the same problems this year?
 

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FN,
I remember people stating the minnow shortage was due to the excessive amount of fresh water in the bays due to all the rain fall. :confused:

DM2
 

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Flukin, yes the whole place is pretty much frozen solid. Deep freeze is one contributing factor to the minnows, but another one that can be a large factor is fresh water amounts. Last year we had an extremly wet spring, add to that some feel we are in a down trend on supply. All off these things add up to minnow shortages. There is also fewer guys minnowing this year because last year was so bad they couldn't make up the loses. I held my own pretty well last year on supply there were very few times I had nothing. This year could be completly different, but one things for sure I'll do my best to keep supply going strong. Thanks Tim
 

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Originally posted by Hand's B&T:
Flukin, yes the whole place is pretty much frozen solid. Deep freeze is one contributing factor to the minnows, but another one that can be a large factor is fresh water amounts. Last year we had an extremly wet spring, add to that some feel we are in a down trend on supply. All off these things add up to minnow shortages. There is also fewer guys minnowing this year because last year was so bad they couldn't make up the loses. I held my own pretty well last year on supply there were very few times I had nothing. This year could be completly different, but one things for sure I'll do my best to keep supply going strong. Thanks Tim
Tim's right, I never had a hard time getting them in his shop, When others didn't have the minnies! Hopefully the minnow shortage won't happen this year. When I couldn't make it to his shop, it was hard to get them other places!

[ 01-30-2004, 07:49 PM: Message edited by: striper2278 ]
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the replys. I forgot about the rain. How could I forget about all that rain. There we many days I could not get any last year.
 

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I don't see where the rain would have any effect on minnows.

The minnows we use as bait are just like the striper and live well in fresh or saltwater.

Of all the fish that live in the back bays I can't think of one that is a survivor like the minnow.

I think that just like any species of fish they have good and bad seasons.

In their little world of creatures their own size they are the top predator. Nothing in their size range will stand in front of a school of moving minnows. They are like army ants devouring everything in front of them.

I believe minnows are their own worst enemy. One of their main foods is a small snail that lives on the meadows. I'm not talking about the mud snail you see around docks and shallow creeks. This is a smaller snail that lives in the grass on the meadow.

When I commercially caught minnows and transported them in tanks I had to stop on the Parkway to clean out the pumps. They would be clogged with the snail shells that the minnows regurgitated. I could fill a large WaWa coffee cup with the shells from 10 gallons of minnows.

You could walk out on the meadow and part the grass down at the dirt level and find these snails everywhere. The past few years I haven't been able to find many snails anywhere.

If a major item is gone from their feed then they will replace it with something else. Their own eggs or the baby minnows. I believe they have the ability to eat their own school almost out of existance.

Anything that can eat it's way up the rear of a frozen bunker has a serious eating problem. Believe me when I say that if minnows got to be 20 pounds they would be eating people.

When a school begins moving in a tidal creek they have a pecking order. First the very small minnows followed by small and medium and then the jumbos followed by a few stragglers. It's like staying in front of mom, dad, big brother and sister because a family meal can kill you.

Right now the minnows are in quiet areas in the back bays. Our dock is loaded with them. I can break the ice and pull up one of our traps and it will be loaded with minnows. Very sluggish but healthy. When the water begins warming they will leave these areas and once again head for the tidal creeks to feed, spawn and for safety.

I believe that if a solid food base is in place for them then we can expect a good year. If this winter has effected their food supply then be ready for shortages.
 

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For several years I trapped kept and sold minows.They are cannibals but there is one food that is plentiful,mosquito larve.We hate these things but they ar very important.There have always been times when the minnows disappear for a few wks. then come back strong.Fact is it just happens and has been happening for a long time.
 

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Is it really a minnow shortage,or just more and more people fshing with minnow's???

GotBass is rite,there seems to be a shortage for a couple weeks...Then it seems like they come back...With the weakfish having a slow go last year,i think more guys were fshing for flatty's,so the demand for minnows was in full force...Just my opinion
 

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I have to agree with Chunking, I use to get a bunch of minnows for fishing and what I had left over I would bring back home and put in a fresh water fish tank. I'd take them back out next time I went fishing and the fresh water did not effect them at all.

Dave Isanski
 

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A few more things.

The most difficult time to catch minnows is during a full or new moon. Minnows just don't seem to pot well when the tide is ripping.

Rain. If you had to live off the minnows you caught in the rain you would be dead in a week.

I'm not disputing the fact that minnows were expensive and at times hard to come by.

I had the oppertunity to see two different minnow men out on the water last year. They did it a whole lot different than when I did it.

Minnows travel up and down the tidal creeks. When they start to move you have to be there ready for them. Now the guys are using the large square traps. I used the regular two sectioned snap trap.

I would set ten traps up a creek and as soon as the minnows started to move I would start at the trap farthest up the creek and empty it. Then move it down to the closest trap and keep doing this to keep up with the mass of minnows moving down the creek.

On a good day when the minnows were moving and potting I could catch 25 gallons on a tide. Sometimes it took a few hours sometimes it took an hour. Depended on the length and depth of the creek.

The people I see now set their pots and leave. I don't see how they can catch the volume needed for todays demand. If I did it that way I would have caught only a few gallons.

It's something you have to love to do. If you sit in one of those narrow creeks you can figure giving some blood to the bugs.

Minnows are more than happy to into a trap. Free food and to some extent the pot actaully gives them shelter and protection.

The tidal creeks go almost bone dry so a minnow doesn't want to stay very long. At some point they will try to leave the pot and many will find the way out. Staying on site and tending the pots produces better than setting and leaving.

With what minnows are going for maybe there isn't a need to catch 25 gallons. If they all did that it would start a price war.

Why not catch 8 gallons and sell them for $25.00 a gallon rather than catching 25 gallons and sell them for $8.00.
 

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What happened to the minnows last year?

If there is one question that really had me stumped last year that was it. I've caught all the minnows I've sold at the store for almost 20 years. Last May the bottom fell out like I've never seen. Not only couldn't I catch enough minnows I couldn't buy them. I know I wasn't popular with a lot of the South Jersey Bait Shops when I upped the ante to $40.00 per Gallon, but I couldn't sit here with an empty tank either.

I had 4 serious baymen bringing me all they could catch and that still didn't make enough to keep from running out almost every day. If we hadn't had the rain on the weekends I would have never had enough to keep up with the demand.

In any case why is the big question. I don't think cold in itself affects minnows, What I believe caused a big kill was the big North East Storm that came with freezing temperatures and snow. This washed a lot of minnows out of their safe holes and up onto the marshes and even onto the nearby roads as witnessed by a lot of barners last winter. What really confused me is that the minnows were missing from the entire coast, as far south as the Eastern Shore of Virgina and probably further. I had minnowers that turned into buyers and shippers bringing them from that far away.

Late May and early June are always tough to find a real good supply of minnows, talk is that they are spawning and won't go into traps. There may be something to this because come July minnows did start to show up at there old haunts and very decent sized ones as well, Minnows that had definately overwintered. Soon after last summers hatch started showing up and these pin heads were more than available for bait.

By the end of flounder season the new crop of minnows were big enough to use, but the weather kept the demand down. It seems like there are plenty of minnows around right now if they make it thru this cold winter, but i really don't think that should be a problem.

I do realize the demand is up, (That is good for me) and that there are more and more big time minnow operations, Kelly's Killies sends tons of South Jersey Minnows up north. And there is nothing worse than trying to maintain a catchable local population and have an out of towner dump 100s of oversized traps in every creek you ever use.

I agree with chunking that the old fashoned Gee's minnow traps are the most efficiant minnow catchers, but i have moved on to using bigger traps with 1/2" X 1/2" mesh wire to cull the little minnows before I catch them. I really would like to see commercial minnow traps limited to this size mesh which would allow many more minnows to grow to better baits and produce much more bio-mass over all.

What is this years forcast, I wish I knew, but then I wish I had some insider information in the stock market because that is one hell of a lot less work, mud, greenheads, sweat and sunburn.
 

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I did not notice a really tough shortage of minnows anywhere but in the bait shops last season, catching your own is definately the way to do it. however as chunking explained asnd as with anything there is a right way to do things. And dumping 20 traps in a back creek over night, is not it. In order to maximize the amount of minnows you catch you have to tend to the traps. I minnowed for some B&T shops for a few years and minnowing is definatley not an easy or clean or painless hands off operation. However, I found it so rewarding returning to the dock with a couple full cars of minnows, a sunburn and loads of greenhead bites. Minnowing takes a lot of attention and more often then not the traps don't take alot of time to fill up it is just a matter of keeping empty, baited traps in front of the ravenous schools as they traverse in or out of a creek. If I left a trap sit more than 30 minutes that was entirely too long. There were some decent sized minnows around last season you just needed to know where to look- and at $10 a pint last year b&t shops were not the places to find em :D
 

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If anyone decides to catch their own for this season here is a little tip.

Only after catching them for some time will you appreciate how vicious the lowly minnow is.

They eat everything and they eat constantly. The next time you have a jumbo minnow look at it's mouth. It's wide and full of teeth. Take your fingernail and pry the lower lip open. You will see teeth that put anything around here to shame.

One time I had a bunch of fresh jumbo minnows for bait. When I was ready to bait one up I noticed something sticking out of it's mouth. I grabbed it with my fingernails and pulled. I was amazed that I was able to extract what was left of another minnow out of it stomach.

The head was just about a skelton but it was still intact. The minnow meal was about a third the size of the jumbo. It was digesting the front of the minnow while the back was still sticking out of it's mouth. INCREDIBLE!

Even in the world of baitfish there is a delicate system in place. When I started catching minnows I would find a tidal creek and work it for a few days. When the minnows were gone I moved to the next creek. Some of these creeks were only a hundred feet apart.

I didn't think much of what I was doing or how it was effecting the enviroment. Minnows were minnows and they were everywhere, or so I thought.

After trial and error I discovered that each creek held it's own individual population of minnows. Once it was wiped out it took a full year to rebound. I discovered that if I minnowed each creek two days in a row and moved on I left the creek in good shape.

Enough minnows were left to quickly repopulate so I could visit again by the end of the season. It amazed me that a creek to the left and right were full of minnows while the one I hit hard was void. Even with the minnows moving in and out with the tide they seemed to always return to the same creek.

Now for the tip. If you purchase minnow traps and want to catch some large minnows try this. Take a broom handle and jam in each end. The holes that come in the trap are so small that large and jumbo's can't get in. More than once have I pulled in a new pot only to find it empty with a big minnow plugged in each end. One time I even found a jumbo female with her stomach ripped open from a piece of the wire from the trap. She couldn't fit and killed herself trying. Thats what I mean about how vicious they are.

If you do decide to catch your own then spread the effort around. Don't just work one creek or you may kill it off. :cool:
 

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Chunking,
That is what I meant about trying to keep a substainable population in an area. When I started in this buisness I did wholesale some minnows, and quickly found out that an area can indeed be wiped out.

That is why it is so disturbing when a big commercial operation comes into an area with 1/4" mesh traps and keeps every minnow they can get. I'm sure a lot of local fishermen feel the same way about me, but I guarantee I leave an area way before you can't fill one trap with more than enough minnows for a days fishing.

BTW as far as catching your own last summer in this area, I sold many more minnow traps than I ever did, and many times the next day the customer would be back willing to pay any price for a pint of minnows. I even had some serious old time baymen comming in and buying minnows completely befuddled.
 

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Hey Dave.

I know a lot of prople who own one or two traps.

The big mistake is they see a few minnows around a dock or fish cleaning station and think that there is a great supply to be picked at will.

If you realy want to catch a good supply of minnows you have to work at it. Sure you can catch some around the dock but not enough to say screw the bait shops. And forget about it if someone else has the same idea. Two into a few = less.

You, me and flukerat know that catching minnows is hard work. Got to love it if you want to make it a hobby. Gnats, strawberry and greenheads are just three of the problems. Heat, humidity and slow days can suck the fun right out of it.

I enjoyed the hell out of it. You always find new and interesting things when you are out there. Nature in a tidal creek is just incredible when you aren't flying by at 50 mph.

One time after working one area for a few days a mudhen actually hopped right off the sod bank onto my flat bottom boat. I guarantee no bird watcher ever had that happen to them.

If you remain fairly quiet and do not look threatening then most creatures will come out to have a look see. Chances are that you are the biggest thing they have ever seen in their neighborhood.

A school of minnows around the dock may look tempting but you will find out quickly. There aren't as many as you figured on and they aren't as big as they first looked.

If you want good minnows and lots of them then head up the narrow tidal creeks. and be prepared to meet nature face to face. Take repellent, a bug mesh hat and lots to drink. And have fun. :D
 

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The "ENJOYMENT" part is something that rarely gets mentioned about commercial fishing. Even the lowly minnow, there is an extreme satisfaction pulling up a trap that is more than 1/2 full of minnows and watching your holding cages fill up.

It is an immediate satisfaction and a profit you can measure. Multiply this by 100 fathoms of gill net or 10 miles of long line or a full bag on your dragger and you can almost imagine how good it makes to make the right set and have a hold full of dollar bills.

I've had a post in my head for a while concerning this and I guess I have to get it out soon, but your right. Many times I could find a better use for my time but chasing the elusive minnow gets me out of the store and out onto the bay and marshes where problems are much more specific and possibly solvable.
 

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Bay didn't freeze till second week of January. Maybe it will thaw this week. If not and another big minnie kill.... go see Dave, he has the best selection of rubber minnies around
 
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