Raising Bait Fish

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With the number of fishermen growing each year, the demand for bait fish has increased considerably. Many fish farms have appeared as a result of this demand, resulting in a billion-dollar industry. If you are interested in raising bait fish but have limited space, here's a good way to get started.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 tanks
  • Fresh, non-chlorinated water
  • Aerator
  • Spawning area
  • Water plants
  • Feed

Set Up

  • Choose the type of bait fish you want to raise. When it comes to bait fish, there are many choices, but fathead minnows are the hardiest and easiest to raise. They have very predictable breeding and spawning patterns, and removing their eggs for hatching is very simple.

  • Decide where you are going to set up. Two things you need to consider is space and shelter. The tank size you choose will determine how much space you will need. You also need to provide some type of shelter from sunlight and cold when choosing your location.

  • Choose two tanks to begin with. One tank is for your breeders and one is used to hatch the eggs and hold the babies. Stock tanks come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and make excellent ponds for raising bait fish. Choose the size and shape that will fit the best into your space and shelter.

  • Fill the tanks with fresh, non-chlorinated water. Well water or filtered water are good water sources. If you don't have access to either of these, chlorine removal drops and tablets can be purchased for treated water.

  • Add needed accessories before adding breeders. Accessories needed for raising bait fish include an aerator, spawning caves or objects, and water plants. Aerators keep the water oxygenated so that the bait fish do not die, and when female bait fish spawn (lay eggs) they lay them on the underside of a submersed object. Rocks or clay flower pots are ideal. Adding water plants to your tank is a good idea because minnows feed mainly on plant materials.

  • Catch or purchase the bait fish you want to raise. Live minnows are available at bait shops, pet stores and fish farms and are not very expensive, but If you know a good place to catch them and it is allowed in your state, by all means, catch all you need.

  • Feed your bait fish two to three times a day. You can feed them fish flakes and fish supplements, frozen brine shrimp or oatmeal.

Raise Bait Fish

  • Familiarize yourself with the signs of spawning. Female minnows spawn, attaching their eggs to the underside of a submersed object. The male them fertilizes them and remains near to defend and protect the eggs. When you see a male hanging around a specific area, fighting off invaders, you can be sure that he is protecting eggs. If the eggs are removed, the male immediately starts the process all over again.

  • Remove eggs from the tank shortly after spawning to increase the egg population. It takes 5 days after fertilization for the eggs to hatch. As soon as you notice the male defending the eggs, remove the object the eggs are attached to from the breeder tank and place in the hatching tank. Replace the object taken from the breeder tank to encourage spawning.

  • Prepare yourself for a big hatch. Female minnows lay an average of 150 eggs at a time, up to 12 times a year. That is 1,800 babies from one female. If you have more than one female, your hatch rate could spiral out of control in a very short time. It is possible to hold a large number of minnows in one tank, but at some point you will have to divide them up or sell them.

Tips & Warnings

  • Simulated light and warmth can keep bait fish spawning most of the year.
  • Chlorine will kill bait fish.
  • Do not over-feed bait fish.
  • Photo Credit Photo by Terri Rawls
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