Warm weather needed to assure availability of shiner minnows
It has been a confusing spring, even for the shiner minnow.
"The water temperature was about 59 degrees at the end of April and now it is in the low 50s," said Donnie Ellis of Cass Lake who makes his living trapping minnows.
"The shiners were close to spawning in April but the spawn has been put on hold because of the colder water. The spawn depends upon all kinds of things but one thing you need is 60-degree water."
Area minnow dealers have been able to trap enough shiners to take care of the opening-weekend demand, according to Ellis, but the supply is limited and warmer weather is needed to restock the tanks.
"There should be enough to go around this weekend but after that, who knows?" Ellis said. ""Every bait dealer is hoping the weather warms and the shiners run. If that doesn't happen there could be a shortage of shiners after opening week."
Where and when to look for the shiners is not an exact science.
"There is no set pattern for trapping shiners," Ellis said. "Trying to figure out where they are and how to catch them is the challenge."
Ellis has picked up a few pointers, however.
"You need to be like a blue heron and look for the shiners," he said. "You just can't wait for them to come to you.
"The temperature will dictate when and where the shiners will make their run and we are still waiting for that to happen," Ellis continued. "You have to head out every day and be thankful for what you catch, even if it's nothing.
"A minnow man has to take things with a sense of humor. Every day chasing minnows I learn something. Tuesday I learned that it was cold on the water."
Shiner minnows are the bait of choice for many Bemidji area fishermen but that hasn't always been the case.
"Minnow popularity changes," Ellis said. "Now, the shiner is the most popular but it used to be that everyone wanted suckers. From suckers the fishermen went to redtails, then it was rainbows. After the rainbows the bait of choice was the nightcrawler and then it was the leech.
"Now it's the shiner, except for fishermen who are looking for trophy walleyes. They want large rainbows."
"Everybody has their favorite minnow and favorite size," said Mark Cook of Bluewater Outdoors. "Buying minnows can be more personal preference than fish preference."
Whatever your preference, the area bait shops should be able to accommodate you. At least during opening weekend.