How To Hook A Minnow Like A Pro

A minnow is commonly referred to a small-sized fish which is often used as bait for fishing. Since they are food for predatory fish, live minnows are excellent bait for most fishermen.

To use this fish properly as bait for getting the most desirable result, it is necessary to learn ways to hook it. A minnow needs to be hooked judging by conditions of the water, what kind of fish you are aiming to catch, and how you want to catch it.

How to hook a minnow
How to hook a minnow

If you are into fishing, you will know the ace of live baits which are minnows. And chances are you might have struggled, a time or two, with how to hook them and use them to lure your bites in.

How to hook a minnow?

Before getting into the methods of hooking a minnow, it is imperative to know what kind of hook to use for the purpose. Since minnows are very small in size and it’s optimal to keep them alive, it is necessary to use a thin hook so that the minnow doesn’t die instantly or any of its organs are punctured.

Let’s look at the best possible methods to hook a minnow:

1) Through the tail

For this method, you need to pierce the minnow 1/2 cm above its tail. This is a good method that allows the fish to move freely and attract predators for a long time. It also helps them stay alive for a long period of time. 

The process is also easy for anyone hooking a minnow for the first time as there is little technicality involved.

But since fish tend to go for the head, it is better to give 2-3 seconds extra before reeling it in just so the fish is caught properly in the bait.

This method is also not good for fast streams.

2) Through the dorsal fin

Similar to the previous method, you are to pierce the minnow 1/2 cm below the dorsal fin for a good grip on it. In this case, you have to careful to not break the spine or puncture any organs of the minnow as it will die quickly in that case.

This process might be a little technical but it’s really good to attract big fish as the minnow can move freely in the water.

3) Through the snort

This might be the most effective method to use minnow as live bait. Even though it’s quite technical, you will easily get the hang of it with some practice.

For this process, you are to enter the hook through the nostril of the minnow and get it out through the upper lip.

You have to be careful not to close both then lips of the minnow because then they won’t be able to breathe as water won’t enter the gills and they will die pretty soon.

4) Above or below the spinal cord

This technique requires much technicality and expertise but it is good for holding the bait to the hook. For this method, you have to find the arch of the fish and locate the spinal cord, and carefully insert the hook so the spinal cord doesn’t break. 

This might restraint some of the movement of the fish.

All these methods are quite effective for keeping a minnow alive for a long time and attracting a number of baits. Apart from these, there are a number of methods to hook a dead minnow which is generally used in case of fast streams or for casting jig.

How do hook a frozen minnow?

Minnows can be hard to put in a hook as they will be hard in a frozen state. The hook needs to go through the soft part. So, gills or eyes are the best choices you have. Rotate the hook at a 180 degrees angle. After that, put the hook again to bring it out from the body. A large part of the hook will be in the minnow.

How to thread a minnow?

You need to follow these steps of threading a minnow:

On one end of the minnow use a 2 feet long leader. You can opt-out for six to eight inches in length too. On the other end, use a small-sized swivel. You can also use treble.

Treble is a better option if you use 12 X 8 hooks. Target the hook behind the minnow’s skull. Use the hook to prod just below the skin Run the hook or needle just below the skin until it reaches the rear end. Then fix the needle with the loop of your leader.

Then the leader goes through the minnow. After that, the straight part of the hook should be glided to the barbs of the minnow. If you follow all these steps, your swivel or treble will be hidden from the view and your minnow will be attached securely. Also, your minnow will be alive. But there is always a high risk of killing the minnow in the process.

What to do with mushy minnows?

Mushy minnows are almost impossible to put on a hook. What you can do is cure minnows. curing steps are-Take a bag. Zip-lock bags are much more convenient. Put the minnows in the bag. Put enough salt in the bag.

Shake the bag so that the minnows are well coated with the salt. Bring out the minnows from the bag, leave the left out salt in the bag. Place a paper towel on a tray. Place the minnows on the tray. Place the tray in the refrigerator to finish up the curing process.

How to hook a minnow for walleye?

Walleyes are drawn to minnows. To hook a minnow for walleye, you need to keep an eye on the size of walleye you are aiming and the way you are going to throw the bait. The size of walleyes determines the size and type of minnows.     

Type of minnows

Both Flathead and Shiner minnows draw in the walleyes. Use Flatheads while targeting smaller fishes. Hook Shiners to catch the bigger fishes.

Size of minnows

The size of the minnows depends on the size of the walleyes you are planning to catch. For example, If you want 25+ inches of walleyes, hook a 4 to 6 inches sized minnow. If you want walleyes of less than 25 inches, you can hook 2 to 3 inches sized minnows.

Casting jig

For this you want the hook to be on the hardest part of minnow, which is in the back of the skull. Put the hook through the minnow’s mouth, then bring it back up through the skull. For this style, minnow does not need to be alive as the jigging itself will give the minnow the needed movement.     

Vertical jigging

For this, you need the movement from a minnow. So put the hook in the minnow’s mouth. Then bring it back through the nostrils. So, ¾ of the hook will be out of the minnow. In this way, if walleyes come from the backside for the minnows, the sharp part of the hook will catch the fish. And as the hook will be more than halfway out, the minnow will be live and struggling to lure walleyes.

How to catch a minnow?

If you want to use minnow as bait but don’t want to spend money buying them, here are the ways you can catch them on your own-

Make a trap

This step takes a little bit of craftwork. But you can use one of these traps several times.

  • Take two bottles of same-sized plastic soda bottles. 2-3 liters sized is the best option.
  • Cut ⅔ of the first bottle and one-third of the 2nd bottle. The bottoms are not needed for the trap.
  • Don’t lose the cap of the bigger proportionate of the bottle. But remove the cap of the smaller bottle.
  • Make holes in both of these pieces. In a similar distance. 10/12 symmetrical hole in each bottle-part is fine. You can heat a nail to make the hole or whatever you might think convenient for you to use.

Now comes the part of assembling your trap by sewing these two bottles together, you can use sewing or twines to assemble them. Put the strings through the holes of both bottles and secure them tightly.

  • Now poke holes in the bigger bottle. 15-20 holes are sufficient.
  • Twine a 20 feet rope with the neck of the smaller bottle. So that you don’t lose your trap.
  • Now that the assembly is over, place your trap securely in slightly deep water. Tie the rope with a rock or with a tree to make sure it doesn’t float away.


This technique needs time and only try it if you have access to fly-fishing gears. Hook some nymph flies or wax worms as baits, then go fishing in creeks. You will find a handful of minnows in a few minutes.

Buy a seine: Seines are the most convenient options as they are cheaper to buy and easier to use. 

  • Buy a seine, attach two similar pieces of wood with it. 
  • Cut the woods bottom part in sharp points. 
  • Stick the sharp points in slightly deep water. 
  • Support the woods with rocks to keep it in place.
  • Wait overnight to check the seine for minnows.

How to keep taking care of your minnow?

Minnows need caring if you want to keep them alive. The steps are easier, though. What you need to make sure is-The right temperature: Minnows like cool water. So you need to maintain the temperature. What you can do is-Keep the bucket of minnow away from the sun.

Add a small amount of ice from time to time to keep the water enough cool. If you are fishing in cooler water and using the buckets that submerge minnows in the water while you are fishing, always temper the bucket of water first.

That will help minnows to get used to the temperature gradually. What you should not do is-Add too much ice at a time. That will shock and kill the minnows. Don’t submerge the bucket full of minnows in a cooler temperature before tampering, as that might kill the minnows by shocking their nervous system.

Clean water

If you want to keep your minnows alive for a long time, you need to keep the water as clean as possible. What you can do is-Replace the water every once in a while when you see the water has turned murky. If you think your water has chlorine, use de-chlorinating chemicals. Avoid water with ammonia disposal. 

Minnows per bucket

Overcrowding the bucket will lead to the death of minnows. Because then the rate of ammonia disposal will be higher and the level of oxygen will be lower. Both of these cases don’t help your case of keeping minnows alive. If you are using small minnows, choose one-gallon sized buckets.  5-6 dozens of Flatheads can be put in one bucket if the size range is .75 to 1 inch.

If you are using shiners of size 1 to 3.5 inches, you can put at least 4 dozens of minnows in these buckets. For bigger sized minnows (10 inches above) use a five-gallon size bucket which can adjust more than 2 dozens of minnows. 

Size of hooks for minnows

For one to three inches minnow use hooks of size 4 or 6 For four to five inches minnow use hooks of 2, 1/0,2/0

Pros of fishing with minnows

Minnows are preferred more compared to artificial lures because of their pros. The pros are- 

  • Fishes don’t ignore minnows as they are accustomed to hunting similar smelling and textured food. So, you are bound to catch something as no fish will ignore these. So your chances of returning empty-handed are zero. 
  • Minnows are cheaper and easier to find. All you need is a good trap. Then you can even get those for free. Whereas artificial baiting will cost you at least $5 -$20.
  • In artificial lures, you have to try several changes of lures to find out which lure is getting you more bites. But while using minnows, it is not a matter of changing baits to attract fish but a matter of time when you start getting bites. 
  • When you fish at night, fishes like trout and walleyes mostly chase minnows. That time lures won’t come into handy.
  • When the water is murky or unclear and fishes rely only on their senses to hunt your only savior will be live minnows.

Cons of fishing with minnows

As much as a minnow is more beneficial than lures, it can be troublesome too. The cons of minnows are- 

  • Minnows need care, changing of water, keeping the water cool and fresh, etc. so they need more effort than a lure you buy from the supermarket.
  • You need to spend time catching minnows and making traps for those. That can be time-consuming.
  • You need to know how to hook a minnow and that can be tricky for beginners.

Minnows are great to get hundreds of bites in one day of fishing. If the minnow is alive, even the uninterested fishes will be lured to hunt these struggling fishes. So go try these tricks of catching and hooking minnows and come back home with a bag full of walleyes, crappies, and trout!

A special thanks to her.

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