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Bait Store collecting.. (fwd)
J. L. Wiegert
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 17 Oct 1998 11:25:43 EDT
From: Ellasoma at aol_com
To: nfc at actwin_com
Subject: Bait Store collecting..
The Bait Store Collector
St. Paul, MN
I must admit the idea of checking bait stores for unusual collectibles, even
now, is still strongly repressed. After all, I really do enjoy being outside
and trying my nets on some new and intriguing lake or stream. Even after many
years of collecting, I still feel the anticipation as the seine breaks the
surface, wondering if there will be something new, or just as rewarding, a
species collected previously, but displaying peak spawning colors.
Nevertheless, curiosity eventually wins out and I can't help doing a little
window shopping once in a while.
My first half-hearted attempt several years ago did not produce any great
results. At that time, I would feed three, five pound Oscars and assorted
other large cichlids, six dozen fathead minnows a week. Everytime I bought
minnows, I would check for oddities, but this would only rarely produce a
brook stickleback or northern redbelly dace. Checking other Twin Cities bait
stores was also not very productive-only white suckers and occasionally golden
I have since tried rural area bait stores and fared consideralbly better. In
Brainerd, Minnesota, I found one dealer that carried six distinct minnow
species. Unfortunately, I had neither aquariums nor specimen jars with
formalin to key them out at later time. In Cass Lake, Minnesota, after
awkwardly explaining to the dealer what I was looking for, I was cordially
invited to a grand tour which included a thorough sampling of all his storage
tanks. The catch included central mudminnows and finescale dace (called
rainbow chubs in those parts), including, one chunky individual more than five
inches long. When I was ready to leave, I was amazed at the dealers refusal to
accept any payment for the fish or his time. He found the whole episode quite
entertaining and asked me to come again.
Near Madison, Minnesota, a commercial minnow collector stopped his truck to
ask me what I was doing as I was retrieving my minnow traps. I believe, at
first, he thought that I was moving in on his territory. Again, after a short
introduction, I was given yet another friendly tour of his collecting
equipment and huge plywood minnow tank complete with aeration system. I asked
what kind of minnows he regularly collected. He didn't know because the bait
stores he sold to didn't care, but he offerred to show me a net full or two
which revealed an envious hodgepodge of minnows. I yearned for a second,
longer look to at least identify a few species, but I was sure he wouldn't
care for me dissecting his products to satisfy my curiosity.
Finally, my last unusual but admittedly not random find deals with the topic
of "willow cats". Northern Fishes by Sammuel Eddy and James Underhill cite
one of the stonecat's attributes as an excellent bait fish and sold in bait
stores under the previously mentioned alias along the Mississippi River below
Lake Pepin. On one collecting trip to southeastern Minnesota, I decided to
follow-up this lead and found "willow cats to be readily available in Winona
bait stores. Unfortunately, the dozen I purchased, though small, were
uncharacteristically chunky for stonecats which I later positively and
regrettably identified as the much more common tadpole madtom.
I hope this article has generated some interest among others who have "stooped
low enough" to explore an occasional bait store here and there. I often
collect in other states and would appreciate learning of any "odd ball stuff"
which may be available on a local or regional basis. This inside information
would be very useful in maximizing quality time collecting in the streams and
minimizing wasted time frequenting seedy bait stores of ill repute.