How to Keep Minnows Alive at Home

Here is a fast and easy way to keep minnows alive at home for your future fishing trips!

Minnows are great fishing bait for catching larger fish species such as pike, largemouth bass, muskellunge, trout and walleye. There are different kinds of minnows such as fat heads, shiners and bluntnose. Obviously, a live minnows increases the chances of catching these fish. However, to keep minnows alive requires a bit more than just leaving them in a bucket.

If you’re like me, you’re likely going to buy a little extra bait just to save yourself a trip to the bait shop for future fishing trips. However, I discovered very quickly how quickly minnows die. I was not able to keep them alive for more than half-day once leaving the bait and tackle shop.

Just a few weeks ago, I accidentally discovered a quick and easy way to keep minnows alive for weeks at a time. Through a little trial and error, I found a way to keep my minnows alive up to 4 weeks until I used them up. I’m sure they would have lasted much longer given that they seem to be thriving well in the environment setup for them.

Note: There are many other methods to keep minnows alive, but this worked well for me since I didn’t have to go out and buy another fish tank or chiller. Secondly, it is sufficient enough for me to get two or three fishing trips without visiting the bait shop. Feel free to share your ideas and thoughts below in the comment section!


How to keep shiners alive.

Getting Started

You will need a refrigerator. Yes, I said it, a refrigerator will keep the water temperature cool for the minnows. The number one reasons minnows die so quickly is due to lack of oxygen and water temperatures aren’t cold enough.

Minnows will like temperatures to be about 50 to 60 degrees, and colder water holds more oxygen. 

Keeping minnows alive.
Keeping shiners alive.
How to keep shiners alive.
How to keep minnows alive.

The general rule of thumb in most cases are 1 inch of a fish to a gallon of water. However, these baitfish are likely going to use them up very soon on your next fishing trip so you can add a bit more minnows. I have a 2.5 gallon container and am able to keep up to a dozen minnows up to a month without any issue. Some fridges have a compartment that you can use to house the minnows or you can purchase one separately. 

How to keep minnows alive.
How to keep Minnows alive.
How to keep minnows alive.

Minnows need a lot of oxygen, especially when crowded in a small container.  The more fish, the less oxygen available so the air pump will provide adequate oxygen levels for the minnows. 

How to keep shiners alive.
Air pump to keep minnows alive.
How to keep shiners alive.

Minnows enjoy a variety of staple such as fish flakes, blood worms, brine shrimp, bread crumbs.

How to keep Minnows for a long time at home

You can simply place them in a container and place them in a fridge with an aerator such as an air pump. Make sure the water source is from the lake or river, or using distilled water.

Useful Tips for Keeping Minnows Alive

Water Changes

Be careful not to overfeed the minnows. You can use the water from the lake or distilled water to change and top off the water. I like to use spring water since its readily available in my fridge. 

Preparing for the Fishing Trip

When preparing for your next fishing trip, make sure you bring the container (bucket) with the minnows along with the air pump.

Maintaining Water Temperatures During Fishing

Using ice cubes can keep the water cool while fishing, but just remember not to directly place them in the water. The tap water which you use to create the ice cubes will likely contain harmful chemicals for the minnows such as chlorine. You can make ice cubes with distilled water as an alternative. 

Keeping Minnows Alive During Fishing

Be mindful that a live minnows will give you a higher success rate in catching fish. Once the minnows is dead, it becomes a less effective bait. Once you have hooked the minnow on your fishing line, it’s likely only going to survive for a few minutes. Just check and replace if it stops moving. 

Depending on how far your trip is to the waters, you can take the transport bucket out early so the water isn’t so cold. If there is a drastic temperature difference between the bucket and lake or river waters, it can shock and kill the minnow much faster. 

Bonus Extra Tip!

Keeping minnows alive.

Frozen Water Bottles or Gatorade Bottles are excellent for keeping water temperatures cool if you plan to keep the minnows alive overnight.

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