Bull Minnows

If you’re a dedicated flounder pounder then there’s no need to tell you the beneficial attributes of a lively bull minnow, however, if you’ve been on the hunt for a trophy doormat and need an edge to come out on top, look to these thumb-size bruisers to keep you connected. A slow-retrieved bull minnow just may be your ticket to success. While far from glamorous when compared to a prickly pinfish or flashy finger mullet, there’s no denying the fact that bull minnows deserve ultimate consideration for die-hard inshore anglers—especially those who enjoy battling hefty flatfish. Depending on where you ply your craft, local anglers may refer to these intertidal brutes as cocahoe, mudfish, mud minnows, or killifish. Whatever you choose to call them, mustering up enough of these proven offerings for a full day on the water targeting shallow, coastal estuarine habitats pretty much guarantees you’ll cash in on some inshore booty. And who says that near-shore anglers looking for a quick fix can’t utilize these offerings to tempt black sea bass, mangrove and red snapper?


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Photo: Captain Will Geraghty

When fishing bull minnows in shallow backwaters you may connect with a dynamic drum or spunky speck, however, your greatest and most likely adversary is, without a doubt, a healthy flounder. This is likely due to the fact that bull minnows prefer to hang near shallow oyster bars and marshy estuarine environments—the preferred habitat for flounder, too.

…there’s no denying the fact that bull minnows deserve ultimate consideration for die-hard inshore anglers—especially those who enjoy battling hefty flatfish.

Although the word minnow may conjure up images of your childhood, bull minnows are a different breed altogether. These finger-size super swimmers aren’t called bulls for just any reason. While relatively small, they are extremely tough and resilient, able to survive low oxygen, drought, high temperatures, and extreme winter chills. Don’t let their small size fool you, as these flounder front-runners are quite aggressive and enjoy dining on tiny finfish and minuscule crustaceans.

When it comes to getting your hands on a dozen or more lively bull minnows you have a couple of options. Along the Panhandle and northeast coast of Florida, these worthy offerings are in great demand and can be purchased at most bait and tackle retailers. They are relatively cheap, anywhere from $2 – $4 a dozen, and can be caught year-round so they’re pretty easy to come by. If you take pride in procuring your own bait, or if your local tackle shop is out of stock, these saltwater scavengers can easily be caught with just a little bit of effort. However, keep in mind that fishing for any species is just that…fishing. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, then it’s in your favor to get your hands on either a cast net with a ¼ inch mesh or an elongated minnow trap.

The areas where you’ll be able to most effectively put together a solid catch are tidal cuts and shallow pockets of water around marshy ecosystems. If you see bull minnows milling around the surface it should come as no surprise that a cast net would be the weapon of choice. If you’re targeting an area with little to no tidal movement and utilizing a minnow trap, place it in 1 to 3-feet of water so it’s only ¾ submerged.

If you’re in a spot where tides are an issue, place your trap in an area that is 1 to 3-feet deep at low tide, as this is when mud minnows are flushed out of the marsh in search of open water. When the tide starts rising they will be on the move to the shelter of the marsh and will likely stop to investigate the free meal. No matter where you set your trap, it’s important you check it regularly.

Every 30-minutes is a good rule of thumb, as you’d be surprised how fast mud minnows show up. When it comes to enticing these bruiser baits into your trap, crushed crab seems to be the bait of choice although chum, dead pinfish or mullet, shrimp heads, pet food and bread also work well. Once captured, these hardy offerings will survive for days on end, even in a poorly aerated bucket or baitwell.