I was dropping off a shuttle car for some family members who wanted to do a kayak float down the Apple River. I got to the jumping off place first, a term Sigurd Olson used to describe getting into a canoe to start a trip. I noticed a couple college aged fellas fishing from shore. It was an easy conversation to begin. “How are they biting?” “Pretty good.” I watched one young man gently set the hook. His rod didn’t bend. It was a pretty crappy rod and reel once I looked closer. His buddies rod and reel looked worse.
A second later both young men had set their hooks again and reeled in their lines. They were both smiling and walking towards me and their minnow bucket that I assumed held their bait. “We’re catching minnows.” Sure enough they both had minnows hooked in the mouth on the end of their lines. One was a chub and one was a shiner. Into the minnow bucket they went. Then they placed a bit of worm onto their tiny hooks and they were back at it. In a moment both were back tossing fresh caught bait into their bait bucket.
It was nonstop action. As with most fishing trips one fella was out fishing the other. Jokes abounded. I was smiling. Why hadn’t I ever thought of this? That’s when Leo and Travis told me their story. “Since I could walk Grandpa Jerry and Uncle Ronnie had taken us fishing for minnows, chubs, shiners and even crayfish. They taught us how to fish and taught us that natural bait always worked best.”
I first learned that on a trip into the Canadian bush years ago. One of the guys had brought a seining net he used to catch minnows. There was no bait shop in the Canadian bush. If you wanted live bait you caught your own. I listen to a few fishing shows online, streaming and on radio and they’re always talking about using spot tails, chubs and wild shiners and paying up to $12 a dozen or more!
“Grandpa always gave us old poles to use when we were kids. We’re brothers; Grandpa didn’t want us to break his or our good stuff. That’s why we still use these junk poles to catch our bait now. It’s fun. It reminds us of the times we did it as kids. With the price of shiners being $10 a dozen it makes sense to catch our own bait.
With a smile on my face I asked the obvious question. Their answer, “They work great. Last time we were out we tried fishing with slip bobbers over cribs with our minnows. We definitely out fish other boats with our baits. Our bait lasts longer in the minnow bucket and on the hook. Last time out I had a nice musky on but lost it. So far this summer we’ve taken an 8 pound walleye and a nine pound pike.”
It just made sense.
Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix Valley and can be reached at James firstname.lastname@example.org