Reporting Bill Hudson
CHASKA, Minn. (WCCO) – Ask anglers where minnows come from and they’ll likely say the bait store. But odds are the bait in your bucket went through Ron Meuwissen’s pole barn.
“They’re gonna work hard or die trying,” Meuwissen said. “That’s what they say in the bait store.”
Ron’s dad started Ken’s Bait Service back in 1950. It’s been supplying bait stores ever since.
“The fatheads and crappie minnows – we’re collecting ‘em all over the state. We bring ‘em in here and we also have other people that we contract out to, to collect them for us,” he said.
But the process really starts out on a windswept, no-named lake. Eddie Borak’s been a minnow trapper most of his life.
“They swim into the side, and then it’s shaped like a cloverleaf and they can’t come back out,” Borak said.
He’ll soak his 50 traps a couple of days before yanking ‘em out.
The traps are heavy with minnows. They’ll be sorted and sent to Ron’s holding tanks.
“They live to be like 12 to 16 months old and spawn 3 times and lay up to a million eggs,” Meuwissen said.
Bait stores from as far off as Hayward, Wis. come to Ron’s to stock up.
“Usually we got a month to get ready for the fishing opener and kind of get it all working,” he said.
Late ice-out has bait dealers scrambling. And leeches, a fishing opener favorite, will be scarce.
“Last year at this time I had 4,000 pounds of leeches ready to sell. I don’t even have one pound,” he said.
And like a good fishing hole, you never tell the truth. It’s OK to think that bait came from a store.
“We got a lot of trade secrets that we’ve learned through the years. Trial and error and a lot of secret spots where we get minnows,” he said.
Ron says as the water warms up in the coming weeks, minnows and leeches will become more active and more available.