Author Topic: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer  (Read 1979 times)

Offline esox_xtm

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Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« on: Dec 21, 2020, 08:44 PM »
Often I have minnows to take home at the end of the day. I used to keep 'em in the basement in a tub and they were fine... Until I took 'em fishing again. Because the water got much warmer than lake water, mid to high 50s, I had trouble with bait temp shocking in the hole. Started keeping 'em in the basement walk in where it was much cooler but usually not freezing. Better.

Now I'm much farther north, no protected basement walk in, frigid garage is my only other choice. Everything freezes, water, aerator, minnows... everything. I tried using one of those cheapie reflector lamps with a heat bulb. It did OK but sometimes I got it too close to stuff. Melted aerator, tubing, wrinkled the side of a plastic bucket. Not a good solution.

I started looking at other options. Had to keep water as cold as possible without freezing, melting anything, controlled would be ideal. Heating pads, blankets, wraps, that kind of stuff. Then I started looking at aquarium heaters. Looked to be exactly what I wanted but most temp controllers did not have a range that would keep water from barely freezing. Almost all were designed for maintaining a tropical temperature.

Kept looking and found one. Temp controller and heating rod for just under $50. First impressions: It took about 20 minutes to bring 5 gallons from 32 to 36F (my setpoint). The controller shut off right at 36 and the residual heat from the element coasted the water temp to 36.3 before it started to cool. I got cold and went inside but it had not turned back on 35.5. I'm guessing at 35 it kicks back on again. Every time I looked at it over the at next 48 hours it was between 36.3 and and 35 something. Pretty good control. And the underside of the lids was a frozen sheet of water  ;D

Outside temp was only 20 overnight to 32 daytime so not much of a test. Next week we get single digits, couple nights below 0 with some days into the teens. We'll see how that goes.

I know $50 sounds like an expensive solution but dead minnows add up. Keeping bait "hole ready" is huge and I'll be there till I tip over. Ain't gonna get any warmer regardless of what that Al Gore guy says. Going forward it'll be a 50 quart (or so) cooler with easy drainage for water changes. Bet it pays for itself in minnows by the end of next year.

I'll keep ya posted.
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Offline Luckydog

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #1 on: Dec 23, 2020, 12:44 PM »
Sounds like an interesting solution.  Can you please provide a link for the heater? My solution has been to keep my aquarium aerator running at all times in an insulated cooler.  It didn't really work too well when the temps hit single digits.

Offline esox_xtm

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #2 on: Dec 23, 2020, 04:51 PM »
Sounds like an interesting solution.  Can you please provide a link for the heater? My solution has been to keep my aquarium aerator running at all times in an insulated cooler.  It didn't really work too well when the temps hit single digits.

I tried that and all it did was pump cold air in freezing the stone and then it all went to Antarctica... Tried putting the aerator in a warm spot and that didn't help when temps got down in single digits.

Tonight were supposed to get down to 6F with -20F wind chills. It'll be an ice making devil  ;D  My minnies are out of the wind but in a 5 gallon bucket (for now) and otherwise uninsulated. I'll repost here over the next few days how this goes. I may have to raise the setpoint to keep things liquid but maybe not. I really do like my bait good an cold going out on the ice. Nothin' worse than tossing a shiner in the hole only to have them go belly up due to temp shock.

Second Gen storage will be a 50 quart (about 12.5 gallons and well within the heating capacity of the 100W unit) cooler plumbed for easy drainage. If this works, I'll be able to hold a good bit of bait and change water easily.

Here's the link: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HGV7VRW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
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Offline DowneastPescador

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #3 on: Dec 23, 2020, 04:56 PM »
I use a plastic tote, like a sterilite, I wrap it in blue foam I think 2 inch. Then I build a plywood shell around that. I place it on top of another sheet of foam to insulate it from the ground and also tape foam to the lid. Then I use an aerator suspended in the water. If the stone touches the sides or bottom it will freeze to it. On single digit nights it will ice the top which I break away easily. The water is extra cold in there so when they go down the hole I hardly ever have to deal with shocking. Since I had all the materials lying around it didn’t take me more than a few hours to set up.

Offline Luckydog

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #4 on: Dec 23, 2020, 05:09 PM »
Thank you for the link.

Offline esox_xtm

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #5 on: Dec 26, 2020, 01:02 PM »
Quick update: After 2 days of pretty much single digits and low teens we're finally back to 20F. When I checked bait this morning the bucket lid was all frosty with a layer of frozen water about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick. All appeared to be frozen spray from aerator bubbles surfacing. There was a light ring of ice around the very top of the water on the bucket itself. Everything else was ice free: aerator, bucket sides and bottom. If I'd have left it I'd have been chipping a couple inches of ice off the top of the water. pulling the aerator to thaw and tossing half if not more of the bait.

If we get sub zero I might bump up the setpoint a couple/few degrees but right now, at 36F, it's doing just fine in some pretty cold weather. I'll be into a larger cooler by Monday so that will likely change a few things. We'll see.
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Offline Snitch#8

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #6 on: Dec 26, 2020, 02:23 PM »
Essox, I sure hope your right in thinking Gore is wrong.  Personally, I don't think so.  I have lived in Michigan for over 60 years now.  We haven't had what us Michiganders call "winter" since the 70's and things are getting worse.  Last year was the first year since I've been ice fishing that I couldn't fish Saginaw Bay.  Well, I guess I could have, there were people doing it, but I wasn't comfortable with the ice conditions the way they were.  I have two small lakes within 1 mile from my house.  I couldn't fish either of them, as well.  I had to drive either two hours north or four hours south, to fish.  Again, I hope your right, but things aren't looking good.  I actually think within 25-30 years, ice fishing will be a thing of the past unless you go to Michigan's U.P..  Regardless if that happens or not, I'm pretty sure, I won't see it!  As always, Take Care and Stay Safe!

Offline PikeKing23

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #7 on: Dec 26, 2020, 06:23 PM »
I use a 50 gal plastic drum on its side.

A small pool pump and homemade 5gal bucket filter and an aquarium aerator work for me, but I am keeping big bait. I keep this outside all winter just as you see it.
After many other failed experiments, I found that a 20 gal standard aquarium heater works perfect. I only turn it on over night if the temps drop to single digits. The flow in my tank keeps it from freezing above that.

Offline Kevin23

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #8 on: Dec 26, 2020, 10:42 PM »
Essox, I sure hope your right in thinking Gore is wrong.  Personally, I don't think so.  I have lived in Michigan for over 60 years now.  We haven't had what us Michiganders call "winter" since the 70's and things are getting worse.  Last year was the first year since I've been ice fishing that I couldn't fish Saginaw Bay.  Well, I guess I could have, there were people doing it, but I wasn't comfortable with the ice conditions the way they were.  I have two small lakes within 1 mile from my house.  I couldn't fish either of them, as well.  I had to drive either two hours north or four hours south, to fish.  Again, I hope your right, but things aren't looking good.  I actually think within 25-30 years, ice fishing will be a thing of the past unless you go to Michigan's U.P..  Regardless if that happens or not, I'm pretty sure, I won't see it!  As always, Take Care and Stay Safe!

Here in Iowa we see the ice line go north and the ice season start later about every year. Just 20 years ago the normal start to ice fishing was thanksgiving or a little later. Now it seems we PRAY for any kind of cold weather before Jan and the last couple years have started the ice season Jan 15-20. This year we are slightly earlier due to a big cold snap that just went through, but tomorrows high is 45deg. Hoping to be on ice by next week sometime.

We dont see the deep freezes like we use to anymore either. We used to have the "January blues" where the ice got over a foot thick and the temps got COLD and most people quit fishing because the panfish go deep and suspend. And then by late Feb you would see people back out again in masses as the ice (now 24-36") started to warm and melt. Always ice fished through feb and until mid/late march. One year we ice fished until may 1 on a shaded bay and that was an experience I will never have again. Now the last couple years our season was less than a month long, and most ice was 8-10".. On the other end, we never got cold weather until november. Nov 1-10 was our cold fronts that brought the ducks and froze up the water every year. The last couple years we had skim ice on opening day of duck season in early october. Its only a few days, then it goes back to hot. then cool. then hot. etc. But that never used to happen.

I don't believe in the whole "we are all going to die and run out of food" global warming, but there is no doubt that there has been a change in weather patterns where I live. Myself and friends thought it was just a couple fluke years but it didnt change back and has been getting worse. We will adapt like always.


I'm sure the people in northern MN. ND, WI, and canada don't notice anything different. But those of us down in the central midwest sure notice it.
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Offline river_scum

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #9 on: Dec 27, 2020, 03:41 AM »
if you have room in the garage, build a corner out with foam board and hang a light bulb in there. then your bait wont freeze up. 
real fishermen don't ask where you caught them.

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Offline Icemole

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #10 on: Dec 27, 2020, 07:33 AM »
 I got no basement or garage.... my "leftovers" get kept in 1 or 2 - 5gal buckets that I keep in the tub in the second bathroom(not used much anymore). It is about the coolest spot in my house plus my little nieces + nephews get a kick out of checking if there are fish in the tub ... LOL

 As for cooling the water down before I get to the lake... not a problem they ride in the bed of the truck in a 5gal bucket with one of those "bait" lids. Even on a 10 min. ride to the close lake they are cooled off enough not to have shock.


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Offline filetandrelease

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #11 on: Dec 27, 2020, 07:46 AM »
 If I’m storing a few days bait I have a 5gal insulated igloo water cooler with an aerator, if it gets really cold I have a packing blanket i wrapped it up in ,
 

Offline esox_xtm

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #12 on: Dec 27, 2020, 09:33 AM »
I just like poking fun a Gore a little bit. Seems like the "world" is getting warmer but not right here. Two years ago we had a stretch of incredibly brutal cold, -15 to -27F for several days. And not just one stretch of it either. There were two good shots of that. This year we had walking ice most places by the first of December and already had some below zero nights.

So far the heater has been almost unbelievable, holding within less than 2 degrees from set point. Going forward will just be refining the equipment to provide some neater wire/cord control and a bit of portability to it so moving it or storing it off season will be easy.
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Offline river_scum

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #13 on: Dec 28, 2020, 07:31 AM »
well you could make an insolated box outside to put it in too.  a friend has a wellhead and hydrant down by his lake.  he uses a plastic barrel upside down over it with light in it.  we put good stuff foam on the inside and outside of the barrel.
real fishermen don't ask where you caught them.

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Offline Kevin23

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #14 on: Dec 28, 2020, 10:18 AM »
I use an old chest freezer and a 15 gal garbage can in the unheated garage. I put a 500gph pond pump in the trash can and run the outlet hose to the chest freezer, then cut a hole in the chest freezer and put a little drain on it so it overflows back into the garbage can. Filter media is in the garbage can, and a small aquarium heater is in the chest freezer. It stays about 50 degrees through the winter, and obviously turn the heater off once it gets warm again. A thermostat to keep it at 40ish would be better, closest to freezing the better!

It will hold bait for months, and really doesnt cost a lot to run it. Its really nice to not have to worry about bait, and just go grab a scoop when you need it. Then when you do need to get bait, get a bunch to fill the tank.

Old freezer was free, trash can was $10, hose was like $2, pump was $30, and heater was $15. Its been running for like 4 years now without issue, and its been worth it on convenience alone.
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Offline esox_xtm

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #15 on: Dec 28, 2020, 12:51 PM »
What is your filter media Kevin? And how often do you have to clean/replace that media and do you ever do any partial or complete water changes?

Sounds like a huge system unless your chest freezer is one of those tiny, convenience ones. The chest in my basement (still freezing merrily away after 40 some years) is big enough for both you, me and two other people to climb in and close the lid. I don't need anything on that order. 30 gallons would probably be my max and 20 closer to reality.

This will be a work in progress but I like all these ideas. It's good to know what is working for other folks!
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Offline Kevin23

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #16 on: Dec 28, 2020, 09:47 PM »
What is your filter media Kevin? And how often do you have to clean/replace that media and do you ever do any partial or complete water changes?

Sounds like a huge system unless your chest freezer is one of those tiny, convenience ones. The chest in my basement (still freezing merrily away after 40 some years) is big enough for both you, me and two other people to climb in and close the lid. I don't need anything on that order. 30 gallons would probably be my max and 20 closer to reality.

This will be a work in progress but I like all these ideas. It's good to know what is working for other folks!

Course pond filter media and then a piece of fine media that sits on top where the water dumps back into the trash can to catch scales and junk. My freezer is the small size, holds roughly 40 gallons of water so my whole system is 50 gallons, it was free (broken). I have never changed or cleaned my filter media or tank. You need the bacteria buildup.

One thing I forgot is you need a screen inside the freezer over the outlet tube or your minnows will go downstream and end up in your filter the first time it gets dark.

I always try to keep a small catfish in my tank for dead minnow cleanup. So I basically don't have to touch anything in the tank other than adding a bucket of water every once n a while due to evaporation.

In the summer I do run a large aerator in it for extra oxygen. definitely not needed in winter.
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Offline RyanW

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #17 on: Dec 29, 2020, 05:49 AM »
A refrigerator is your best friend when it comes to keeping minnows alive and cold. They will stay alive for months  in a fridge.
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Offline Joe in T.C.

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #18 on: Dec 29, 2020, 05:49 PM »
Been looking for something like this for years!

My garage is not heated, so keeping minnows from freezing is a must-have.

I couldn't find aquarium heaters that would go low enough.

I finally ended up with an Inkbird temperature controller, then plugged a heated 5-gallon horse bucket into that with the temperature probe in the filter overflow. 
It works fine but it has more plugs, wires, and lines than I prefer.

This definitely looks like the best option for sure, Thanks for the link  :thumbsup:




Offline Iceassin

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Re: Keeping minnows outside overnight or longer
« Reply #19 on: Nov 25, 2021, 04:38 AM »
I notice that this topic is about a year old but I will chime in and see if there are any updates as to solving some of the issues and to offer my "plan of attack" this winter on keeping my minnows alive.

I have put together a minnow "live well" using a 48qt. cooler and a Super Saver Aeration System from Marine Metals...same company that makes the smaller aerators for minnow buckets. It is a 12V aerator that pumps out 500 g.p.h. and aerates up to 30 gal. with a 1.9 amp draw. I also purchased a 30 amp lithium battery from Amped Outdoors to power it away from home ( full charge should last between 12-15 hours). I'm also using a 120V > 12V converter to power it at home, cabin, etc.

Now, I've done a little research and what I have found is this...ammonia from fish excretion "can" be an issue. It will poison the minnows over time. So with that, I plan to do a partial water change every 3 to 4 days...either using gallons of bottled water and/or ice cubes to replenish. I also plan to use some of the Finer Shiner water conditioner after each change. Also, the pump I am using has a filter with it. However, it only filters out debris. If I find this isn't enough, there are filters available that will filter out ammonia.

As far as storing them at home/when not in use, I am fortunate to have a small storage shed with power to it. I am going to get a ceramic heater with temperature control and use that on those very cold nights to keep the water/minnows from freezing. If I were to keep it in the garage or barn, I would probably make a small enclosure of some type to help prevent the heat from "escaping".

I know this all looks good on paper, but the real test will be when it hits the production floor. Updates to follow.
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