If you fish for bass in Southwest Florida, or about any place else, you’re probably familiar with minnows. The upscale members of the family are the Golden or Kentucky shiners. The big brother shiners come in sizes up to 10-plus inches, although most shiners available in our region are maxed out at about 4-6 inches.
Shiner fishing requires some special handling to keep these “Sexy Sardine" alive and in good condition. Kentucky shiners don’t tolerate warm water very well. The bait shops have a water cooling system that keeps them frisky for long periods. Cool or better yet cold water is a must when transporting your shiners to the fishing site. 55-60 degrees is about the right water temperature to keep your shiners energetic; colder may be even better.
When you transport shiners you’ll want an insulated bucket or cooler. The easy way to keep the shiner alive and thriving is to float a number of cold packs or bags of ice in the water that you get from the bait shop. Try to make sure your bags of ice don’t leak and leach treated tap water into the mix, as it may have a negative effect on the critters. Most bait shops have specially treated cold water that’s generally blue in color and fights fungi and other substances that are harmful to the health and survival of the shiners. Baitcycle Blue Water Bait Treatment and other brand name conditioners are available if you need to replace some of the old shop water. Big time bass anglers use this stuff in their livewells. Cold water is the number one component in keep your big buck baits alive. O tabs and aerators are also a good idea for prolonged stowage and transport of your valuable baits.
Some anglers will carry an extra bucket to condition their shiners to warmer water temperatures by place small quantities of ice packs in a bucket of local on-site water in an attempt to acclimatize their shiners before dunking them in water that may be 10-20 degrees warmer than the shop bucket water. It works somewhat but care needs to be taken in warming up your baits; experiment first and try only a very few pieces at a time.
Later we’ll discuss hooks and hooking styles to best avoid fatal or stressful hook placement.
Capt. Ron Kowalyk