The color of minnows
It was a day on the lower Niagara River when conditions were slowly starting to improve. A few days of high winds up on Lake Erie the previous week brought down water that looked like chocolate milk. It was bad. When Lake Erie doesn’t freeze over, water conditions are susceptible to the howling gusts that can whip the Great Lake up to a froth. It often shuts down the fishing for a few days.
As the fishing action slowly recovers, it’s usually the shore anglers who have the first stab at tossing out a cast. Clearer water usually hugs the shoreline and anglers tossing spoons, spinners, egg sacs or egg imitations like beads can be successful. These trout are hungry, seeking out an easy offering for a quick bite. It’s always a challenge to try and come up with new ways to entice these fish to hit, be it fluorescent colors, scents or whatever will work.
For the boaters, it can be a little more challenging to locate that water that is a little cleaner – clean enough to catch fish consistently. It may force boaters into Devil’s Hole if clearer water is coming over Niagara Falls versus the water coming out of the power plant if the reservoir water is dirty. The flip side can be true, too, with the reservoir water cleaner than the river water when the state’s Power Authority has pumped water before the storms have riled things up.
Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charters was doing some experimenting this spring with Pautzke UV Fire Dye in a new green color and actually changing the color of his minnows as he fished the Devil’s Hole area of that lower river. Conditions weren’t the best but they were fishable. Fishing alongside a couple of other boats, Campbell’s green minnows out-produced the other boats 3 or 4 to one. Not bad when conditions were marginal.
“I kept the minnows oxygenated, sitting in the brine for about 24 hours,” said Campbell after his successful outing. “It gave the bait a good UV color that seemed to really stand out in the stained water. I added some minnows into some dye early in the morning, too, when we headed out and I noticed that the minnows absorbed the color relatively quickly. It really worked for us.”
Campbell got the idea when he saw salmon trollers in the lake using the same Fire Dye for cut bait rigs. Soaking the herring strips or whatever was being used with the rigs in the Fire Brine will often help trollers add a little color to their presentation. Some anglers who have tried it spoke very highly of the process, contending it made a difference when fishing is slow.
Shore fishermen can also use the UV-colored minnows, too, but it’s a little more difficult hauling a pail down 200-plus steps in the gorge or a long trail near Artpark. However, dead minnows really accept the color process quickly. So do Gulp! plastic baits. Those are just some lexamples. Think about the potential, be it for ice fishermen through the hard water; perch fishermen targeting ringbacks in deep water (or shallow water for that matter); bass fishermen bouncing bottom with three-way rigs with a nice juicy green minnow attached. This should work for whatever species of fish that will eat a minnow and a different coloration can tip the odds more in your favor. And worms work, too! Campbell wants to try crayfish this summer. It may be well worth the effort, letting you bring home more fish for the frying pan.