From the February 2012 issue

Jigging with Salted Minnows

By Dave Corbo

 Jigging with Salted Minnows




As I previously explained to my friends Dave and Karl, I walleye fish in Canadian lakes where live minnows are very expensive if purchasing from a resort or bait store, and difficult to keep alive. So I developed a bait technique of using dead, salted minnows.

I explained that using dead minnows covered in salt was, in my opinion, not better bait than live minnows, but had several distinct benefits over live bait, if jigging for fish. This opinion is based on the practical consideration of versatility.

With my method of using salted minnows:

1) There is no need to go through the problems of keeping minnows alive.

2) It is a lot cheaper than buying them at a resort.

3) It is legal to bring them into Canada.

4) They keep forever whether you have a freezer or a cooler.

5) The minnows can be used many times before replacing.

6) And if fishing for lengthy periods of time, they dry out, but once back into water they seem to regain somewhat of their original form and texture.

My friend Dave offered to test this theory. Dave and his family own a cabin on an island outside of Sioux Narrows, Ontario, just off Lake of the Woods. “It’s mid-September and walleye will be in 30 to 40 feet of water, so fishing may be a little slow but we’ll do just fine; let’s go fishing”. “So,” Dave asked in a still skeptical attitude, “tell me more on how you prepare those minnows.”

I explained you need to determine how many minnows will be required for a trip, depending of course on how many fishermen will be using them. Using four fishermen as an example, I figure that one person will go through approximately one package per day. I usually put five dozen minnows in each package. With four guys fishing five days, having a good catch each day, (40+) each, I figure 10 pounds of minnows work out, having a little extra left over.

Depending on the minnow used, I like using medium to large shiners; that works out to be about 11 to 12 dozen minnows per pound. The formula can be adjusted based on the number of fishermen, of course.

I purchase my bait from a local bait store in my home town of Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin. I bring along a five-gallon pail and fill it about half full of water and place the LIVE minnows into the pail. If processing a large amount of minnows, I like to make two trips.

Once I get back to my workshop I empty a box of table salt into the pail. I let the salt do its work and in 15 minutes the minnows have expired.

I pour about half the minnows onto a screen, leaving only minnows.

I then place several handfuls of minnows onto paper towels, pat dry them a little, then sprinkle lots of salt on them.

I then place approximately 60 minnows into quart-size zipper top bags, add a handful of salt into the bag, put them in the freezer, and in a week they are frozen and ready for transport. The minnows will not freeze thoroughly, as the salt acts as an agent from complete freeze, but enough to keep on any long trip.

So the test is on. We reached Dave’s cabin in the early afternoon, and had wet lines within an hour. Dave immediately got us onto fish, 30 feet of water over rock structure, just as he had promised. He and Karl used live minnows. I used my salted ones on a 3/8-ounce white jig.

As a true blue Minnesota Vikings fan, I tell no fish fibs (yes, true, we have not won a Super Bowl). I began catching 16- to 18-inch walleye at a very steady pace. Dave and Carl caught a few, and every so often I could catch them looking over their shoulder at me with looks of envy, as I would shout, “Fish on; it’s all in the wrist.” This continued for the remainder of the day.

The next day, same scenario, “Fish on” contemptuous looks. Finally Dave asked if he could use one of my salted minnows to try out, as he was impressed with the amount of fish I was catching. He was using a 1/4-ounce black jig. He no longer had his jig on the bottom when he pulled in a 20-plus-inch fish. Karl with an awed looked on his face was wavering. I told Karl to give it a try; I guaranteed he would catch a fish on his first jig. I even baited the minnow for him. Over the side, down to the bottom, one jig move and wham! a 22-inch fish.

“Well, I’m now a believer. In all my years of fishing, this defies all fishing logic. Using salted minnows, dead minnows, who would have believed,” stated Karl and Dave in resigned voices.

In Vikings honesty, over the remainder of the trip, live bait was used intermingled with salted ones. Both caught lots of fish. Karl had asked if the salt, as it melted, would attract the fish. That is a good question, one which I have no scientific answer, but would be a good Master Degree program for a graduate student. But for me, it doesn’t matter, the old salts just work.

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