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Fishing with live bait, such as minnows, is generally preferable to fishing with most other baits -- including dead or cut bait, or artificial lures. Keeping the bait alive on the hook makes it more appealing to your potential catch, as the squirming minnow does much of the work for you. Keeping your minnows alive and properly hooking them are keys to successfully fishing with them.
Items you will need
Minnow net or trap (optional)
Canned cat food or other minnow bait (optional)
Fishing rod and reel
Monofilament or braided fishing line
Bobber or float (optional)
Purchase live minnows from your local bait shop, or catch them using minnow nets at the edge of the shore. Use a minnow trap or minnow net, baited with a can of wet cat food, with several holes punched into the side so the food seeps out slowly. Place the baited trap or net in an area where you see minnow schools. Wait a few minutes before pulling up the trap or net. Keep the captured minnows in a bucket, filled with water from wherever you captured them.
Use fishing tackle appropriate for the type of fish you are trying to catch, which will generally be smaller in nature. Select light tackle filled with a lightweight monofilament or braided fishing line -- such as 4- to 10-pound test -- and small- to medium-sized hooks.
Hook the minnows in a way so that they stay alive -- at least for a while -- while on the hook, to make them more attractive as bait. Hook the minnow through the upper or lower lip -- not both -- if you are using the minnows to troll or drift for fish. Hook them through the back, in front of the dorsal fin, if you are fishing from a stationary spot such as a pier, shoreline or anchored boat. Use caution so as to not pierce the minnow's spine. Pierce the back just below the skin's surface.
Use a bobber or float attached about 5 feet away from the hook, if drift fishing or fishing from a stationary spot. Cast your bait a few feet from the water's edge, if fishing from shore. Drop your bait close to the pylons, if fishing from a pier or other structure such as a jetty.
Let the minnow take the line for a few feet, then reel it in. Check your bait from time to time, to see if the bait is still alive or has been stolen. Set the hook immediately once you feel a strike, then let your catch run for a minute or so before starting to reel it in. Try to keep the line away from structures or from under the boat, to keep it from getting broken.
Based in Virginia Beach, Mark S. Baker has been working in editorial for more than 20 years. He has served as a writer and editor for publications such as the "Houston Post," "Boca Raton News" and "Interactive Week," among others. Baker also has a culinary arts degree from Johnson & Wales University and has his own catering business.