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How to Keep Ice Fishing Minnows Alive?

How to Keep Ice Fishing Minnows Alive?

Live bait fishing is a great method of fishing for many anglers. Minnows are generally a very common fish that can be easily found and captured. Generally for the simple purpose of bait.

Keeping minnows alive until you hook them on the barb is what you desire, correct? It is necessary to keep minnows fresh, so they last longer on the hook itself. In today’s article, we will provide you with simple methods on how to keep them viable for long, we are here to assist you with our fascinating suggestions.

Does Ice Help Keep Minnows Alive?

People who buy/capture minnows for bait will desire to keep them alive for as long as possible. The reason for this is as there will be a higher chance of catching larger fish.

Keeping them in a warm area won’t work. They can only survive for a short time in these conditions. The reason they cannot survive for prolonged periods is that the warmer water slows their metabolism. Having their metabolism slowed will ultimately lower their energy and make them more inclined to death. A cooler temperature is recommended.

Don’t Add Ice Cubes Directly

don't add ice cubes directly into a bucket containing minnows
A sudden idea that comes to your mind when you think of keeping your minnows alive is always adding ice cubes. But the truth is that the direct addition of the ice cubes can harm the fish. The reason for this is that ice cubes contain chemicals and chlorine that might kill your fish. Just try to keep the temperature lower than 60 °F (15.6 °C) without adding ice. The cool temperature and cool place can help them survive for a long period.

How Long Can You Keep Minnows Alive in a Bucket?

Prepare A Bucket

5 Gallon White Bucket & Lid - Set of 6 - Durable 90 Mil All Purpose

We know you want your minnows to be alive and work as baitfish. To make sure your ice fishing is more effective. Before you buy minnows, prepare a bucket in which you will put the fish.

Add the fresh lake water or distilled water to the bucket. Keep in mind that water should be clean and cold because a fish stays longer and lives healthier while staying in cold freshwater.

By maintaining the right temperature of the container and adding a distilled cold water, your bucket is ready to place your minnows in.

Putting Minnows In The Bucket

a group of live minnows in a yellow bucket
Wherever the minnows are already held, add that water to the container. The plastic bag water where your fish is already surviving is the clean water that should also be added to the bucket.  This is because, by adding the plastic bag water, the balanced temperature will be adjusted gradually in the container.

Don’t Overcrowd the Bucket

The bait will die faster if you overcrowd the container. You definitely want them to survive, but the presence of many fish makes it hard for your minnows to be functional for a long time and will therefore die quickly.

The oxygen in the container will be depleted, and therefore minnows won’t stay alive. For instance, you can place around six dozen tiny minnows (3/4′ to 1″ long) in an eight-quart bucket. So, don’t forget to keep the environment safe for the minnows by not overcrowding the bucket.

Store the Bucket in a Cool Place

As mentioned previously, add the cold water to keep your minnows alive in the container. Sometimes this water may become warm gradually sitting over time. Therefore, it is necessary to keep the bucket in a cool place. It’s better to put the bucket in a dark area because the water will warm up faster in a bright area. For instance, save the container in the basement or closet.

Put Aerator in Bucket

Marine Metal Aeratr Bubble Box 1.5V

The depletion or lack of oxygen puts your minnows’ life at risk. Providing constant oxygen to the minnows is your responsibility. Therefore, you should put the aerator in their bucket, so they don’t suffocate.

People who sell minnows keep them alive by installing an aeration system to oxygenate them. This method is more appropriate than adding more water or hydrogen peroxide because it can suffocate and stress the fish.

Small Amount Of Hydrogen Peroxide

add one ounce of 3% H2O2 for every three gallons of water
Adding hydrogen peroxide is a controversial idea, but you can add one ounce of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution for every three gallons of water.

This solution helps to form the oxygen necessary for the minnows to keep them alive. It is an alternative method if you do not have an aerator. But make sure that the amount will not fluctuate. Otherwise, the fish will be stressed and may suffocate.

Cool Water

Try to keep the temperature of the bucket in which you have placed minnows lower than 60 °F (15.6 °C) because the rate of fish death increases when they exist in warm water.

Special Containers

There are specialized types of coolers and containers available in the market in which you can place your baitfish to keep them longer.

If your baitfish is a minnow, you can buy an even more peculiar container specially made to keep minnows. These particular containers have aerators attached, so you don’t have to worry about having aerators. Your fish can also float in these types of containers.

How Do You Keep Minnows Alive Longer When Ice Fishing?

Let’s explore the tricks through which you can keep your minnows healthier and more active.
keep minnows alive longer while ice fishing

Consistent Water Replacement

It is essential to replace the water constantly and keep them in fresh and natural water to extend the lifespan of your baitfish. Your minnows will reduce their lifespan if you keep them in stale water that also contains toxins. Whenever you replace the dirty water with fresh water every hour, you’ll get to see your minnows act fresh and healthy.

Know the difference

avoid using tap water for your baitfish
Not all types of water can keep your minnows alive. You should know the difference between tap water and freshwater because tap water contains additives that prove to be toxic for your minnows. Freshwater is healthy and helps to increase their lifespan. So, avoid using tap water for your baitfish.

Do not overfill

Overfilling can limit the space in which the minnow has to survive. A crowded area lessens the oxygen and leaves the minnows exposed to more toxins. Thus their lifespan will be shortened.


While ice fishing, you can use a cooler that already contains pure water and ice. The coolers have a feature in which the water will stay cool for a long time. The additional ice helps it remain colder for even longer. So, coolers seem to be a safe and manageable option to adopt to make your minnows alive and active for a long time while ice fishing.

How To Keep Your Minnow Alive While Ice Fishing?

keep minnows alive while ice fishing
People prefer minnow bait because fish get attracted to them due to their movement. Therefore selecting healthy, active, fast-moving minnows is a priority. Lowering a bucket into the body of water you are fishing in will help the fish adapt to the water they are about to be placed into. Make sure the bucket does not sink and is properly secured.

It is also essential to provide oxygen throughout this process if you intend to fish for long periods. We highly recommend carrying an alternative bait bucket for placing used minnows into.

Attaching a Minnow To a Hook

attaching a minnow to a hook
Placing the hook is executed by choosing one that will hold the minnow securely. You will also want the hook to allow the water movement from the bait to attract larger fish.

Firstly, you can attach the hook in such a way via the mouth by moving it over the bottom lip and then up by the nostrils. But if you hook it up from the backside, it will move better in the water and work more efficiently. The issue with hooking it in the back is that it may come off the hook easier. Although, this is not an issue if your bait is plentiful. This is one of the easiest ways to draw fish and keep your minnow alive and attractive.


Minnows attract other fish as they provoke an attack based on their movement, sight, and smell given off to other fish. It is one of the leading reasons why minnows attract much larger predatory species such as pike. Following the tips thoroughly will help you keep your minnows alive for longer.

Try to follow our guidance by maintaining the temperature of your fish within the container and adding fresh and cold water. Avoid adding hydrogen peroxide and ice directly as they contain toxins that can suffocate your fish.

Make sure the aerator is attached to wherever you put your minnow. It is extremely difficult to keep one gun flowing without it. Select your minnows carefully and enjoy catching many types of fish.