Shiners Minnows Live Bait MN AIS Legal Transport System
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image reader comments Reader Comments June 24, 2024 "UPDATE: A Better Budget Portable Live Bait Aerator?"

image of AQQA rechargaeable aquarium pum "On 2024-06-02 Justin Krebs wrote: Hi Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time to provide an information page that anglers can refer to. You do a wonderful job providing insight into current fishing patterns, rule changes and "how-tos" with other fishing related topics.

With the recent topic of legal minnow transportation in Minnesota on your page I wanted to suggest another option for minnow aeration. I use a rechargeable aquarium air pump to transport minnows to and from lakes. These pumps are relatively inexpensive compared to name brand recreational fishing aerators. I have multiple AQQA brand pumps from Amazon that cost around $21 and perform well with moderate use.

I just wanted to offer that bit of information to others that may not want to invest a lot of time or money into an aeration system for their minnow transportation. I added a picture of the one I have purchased and used. The brand I believe is AQQA. You are free to share this with other readers if you believe it will help. Thanks again Justin"

Justin, than you very much for your words of advice. Until receiving your email, I was unaware of the availability of the rechargeable model you've used, but I now plan to try one myself. I actually do buy and use aquarium aerator pumps in my larger, at home bait coolers, but they are 110V, so they're not portable. You're right though, the inexpensive pumps I"ve used do perform just fine, and are about half the price of the Marine Metal pumps I have in my boat, and in my truck.

I doubt that I'll switch out the pump in my boat, I've been very pleased with the one I already have. However, your rechargeable pump will be more convenient than my setup inside the truck. Thanks again for the tip! fish smiley image — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or Email

image links to fishrapper home page June 1, 2024 How Can We Legally Transport Live Bait In Minnesota?

image links to video by jeff sundin about how to legally transport live bait in Minnesota "Gary Dunn wrote, “Jeff: Our fishing party had interesting discussions with DNR personnel about the transport of live minnows.
We agree that minnows soaked in a lake should not be transported and put into a different body of water due to the threat of invasive species. We thought (that) by purchasing an insulated, aerated bait cooler, we could transport from lake to lake because they were in the (fresh) water from the bait shop or the well water from our resort, never in a lake.

"We were surprised when the DNR officers ordered us to dump our bait.  When we asked, "We're paying $12 a dozen for shiners and we're supposed to dump them out, even if they have never been in lake water?" The answer was a unqualified, "Dump 'em." As a guide, what is your view on this? Thanks, Gary Dunn, Andover, MN”

Gary, I’ve had similar experiences and I agree with you, throwing away $40 to $60 worth of live bait is PAINFUL! I could go into a lengthy dissertation about what “we should be doing”, but that won’t be helpful today. Unfortunately, the statute that the weed and water police are following does not differentiate between types of water. It simply states that all water must be drained from the boat, and all boating-related containers. If they were sticklers for details, they could insist that we drain the water from every container in the boat, leeches, water jugs, pop bottles, everything.

Luckily, there is one way that you can legally keep your minnows alive for transport home. That is to have a supply of fresh, cool water in your vehicle. You are allowed to remove the minnows from your boat’s baitwell or live bait cooler and place them into your container of fresh water in your vehicle.

For me, there are 2 identical coolers, one in the boat and one in my truck. I’ve taken the extra step of rigging a 12 volt aerator pump, powered by a portable 12 volt battery like the ones we use for our ice fishing graphs. I can take the basket out of the cooler in my boat, slip it into the one in my truck and I’m good to go. Admittedly, doing this requires a high level of commitment because that truck water needs to be kept cool. If I change it every morning, it stays cold enough but if I don’t, it will warm too much and my minnows will die from temperature shock when I use it.

A more casual approach to saving minnows would be to put them on ice at the end of your trip. They’ll be dead, but they will remain fresh enough to use for another day or two. Almost every day, I have dead minnows on ice and use them willingly. For jigging, they work just as well as live minnows. Obviously, dead minnows are unsuitable for Lindy Rigging, or other live bait presentations.

Less than ideal, but sometimes workable, would be to carry just enough fresh water in your vehicle to get you off the lake and to a place where you can refill your bait cooler. If it’s in your vehicle, and not in your boat, it will be legal to transport.

As always, we appreciate your comments and questions. If you have ideas about preserving your live bait, and can share with your fellow anglers, please do! fish smiley image — Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or Email

"Minnesota AIS Legal System For Preserving My Prescious Shiners and Live Bait Cargo" — Jeff Sundin May 20, 2022

Image of AIS Legal system for transporting live shiners Paul Plinske emailed with this question. “Q) With all the talk of a limited supply of spot tail shiners this year, I was just wondering if you had any tips for keeping them alive once you leave the bait shop? They seem to sometimes die if you just look at them the wrong way.

A) Paul, you’re right Spottails can be tricky to keep alive, so can some of the other popular fishing minnows like Red Tails. Your question reminds me that it’s been a long time since I’ve written about keeping live bait alive, so I thank you for the lead into this fresh update.

In my experience, keeping minnows alive for extended periods of time involves addressing 3 main issues, the first 2, involve what the minnows need to survive: space, and environment. Space, to me, means having enough water so that my minnows are not over-crowded. Environment includes temperature, aeration, and the addition of a water conditioner. For my minnows, the importance transporting my minnows AIS LEGALLY, is the real whopper. I need a LEGAL system for getting them out of the boat, into the truck and back home where they can be properly cared for.

image of Engel Cooler installed in boatLike you, I want to protect my investment and to me, money certainly is one reason for being protective. But the cash value of my minnows is far outweighed by the value of providing my customers with high quality live bait. Now I realize that I carry a much larger than average supply of minnows, and by most folks’ standards, the example system I’ve shown will seem large, even excessive maybe. That’s okay, because today, there are more than enough retail offerings on the market so that you can duplicate the setup at any scale that works for you.

Water conditioners, for many should be the first consideration because using a conditioner turns deadly, chlorinated city water into cool, clean, life sustaining water for your spottails. I use a product called G-Juice, they are not a sponsor, and they don’t give me products for free. I buy it because it works very well, but there are other brands on the market that work too, so you have choices. In metro regions, pet shops that carry aquarium supplies are always a good place to find water conditioners because most urban customers need to solve chlorinated water problems for their pet fish.

Water temperature is highly important too, cooler temperatures help lower fish metabolism so they consume less oxygen and the water in your tank will stay fresh and clean longer. In the pre–Aquatic Invasive Species era, I described making my own bait tanks using commercially available coolers as the method for keeping water temperatures lower. Today, I simply buy coolers manufactured for the purpose by Engel. These are far better suited to the job than any of the consumer coolers that I used to buy. Engel is not a sponsor either; I buy their coolers at full retail price just like you would, and I do it because their base product is good. That said, I will advise anglers who need “heavy duty” service to avoid their air pumps. They’re fine for light duty use, but they are not reliable enough to suit me.

Marine Metal Power Bubbles in boat Aeration, the next critical factor in keeping live bait healthy is accomplished by installing my favorite aerator of all time, the Marine Metal Power Bubbles. The unit is essentially the same as the 110-volt aquarium pumps that you’d find at a good pet store, except this one runs on a 12-volt battery. Everything you need to hook it up will be included in the package and installation is simple. Revealed in the accompanying photos, I install mine under the deck of my boat and have it hard wired to one of the trolling motor batteries. The unit is so durable that I don’t even install an on/off switch, the pump runs steadily from the fishing opener, until ice up and I’ve never burned one out yet.

So far, so good, I have a beautiful system for keeping my minnows alive in the boat, all day long, without ever using a single drop of lake water. But in Minnesota, I still cannot legally transport the live bait home in the boat, even if there’s no lake water in my cooler. So, to satisfy the AIS inspectors, I have a 2nd, duplicate system installed in the back of my truck. I fashioned a transport device by taping an aerator and portable 12-volt battery to some recycled packaging foam. The cooler, filled with fresh water from home and conditioned with a few drops of G-Juice is used to LEGALLY transport my minnows from the lake to my garage. Water is replaced every day using fresh, conditioned tap water from my garden hose.

Some folks, like I said before, may not require a system as large as mine for the boat of for the truck. But some folks need systems that hold even more water than my portable setups. No problem, you can still make a custom size system using any size cooler you like. At home, I have another 60-quart cooler that’s set up using all of the same parts described above except instead of using the 12-volt Power Bubbles, I use their 110-volt model.

Do it your own way, whether you make yours larger, smaller, or identical to mine, this system will save you money. At today’s prices, my aeration system protects me from discarding hundreds of dollars’ worth of minnows every summer. The money is one thing but in terms of customer service, the value to me is beyond calculation. fish smiley image — Questions or Comments? Office Cell Call or Text 218-245-9858 or EMAIL

Jeff Sundin is a full time fishing guide, outdoor writer and photographer. Learn about guided fishing trips and more, click >> More About Jeff Sundin.