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At the end of many fishing trips there are leftover bait minnows. Minnows or small bait fish can be preserved using salt. The process for making salted minnows is quite simple and can result in high quality bait that can be used later. Salted minnows can be kept in a refrigerator for a month or freezer for up to a year.

Step 1: The minnows are placed into a plastic pail using the original water. Canning salt is added to create a brine solution. About half of a cup of salt per half gallon of water is used. Do not use tap water that contains chlorine. The bait is soaked in the brine for at least 1 hour. Keep the temperature of the bait and water cold. The brining helps purge the minnows and firm and tighten their scales. Save the brine solution, it will be used later in step 8.

Step 2: The minnows are then placed on paper towels. We like to place a piece of cardboard under the paper towels to help absorb the moisture.

Step 3: Carefully pat the minnows with another paper towel to help dry them.

Step 4: Canning salt is added to a plastic pail. You will probably need 2 cups of salt for a small batch of minnows. More salt can be added if required.

Step 5: Add the minnows one at a time to the plastic pail and roll them in the salt. They should be placed in the pail next to each other.

Step 6: After all of the minnows have been salted, the pail should be kept cold for the next few hours. The size of the bait fish will determine the length of time the minnows should be kept in this step. For small thin minnows like emerald shiners, 2-3 hours in the salt is required. For larger minnows like golden roaches the time in the salt should be 5-6 hours.

Step 7: After several hours the salt will remove fluid from the minnows. You do not want to remove too much fluid or the minnows will become too brittle.

Step 8: Rinse the excess salt from the minnows using the brine water. Place the rinsed salted minnows on paper towels and allow to air dry for at least 1 hour. You should notice that the scales are firm and the minnows will have a mirror like finish.

Step 9: Place the air dried minnows into plastic bags with a sheet of paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. The salted minnows can be frozen.

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