Seining for minnows requires a couple of friends, a long net, and two poles. It takes some practice to get the hang of it, but by working together, you’ll be able to catch your own bait fish.
Growing up in Florida, I’d gone fishing ever since I was a kid. I had fished with minnows plenty of times, but I had always bought them from a tackle shop or – to be completely honest – a guy who had a few buckets at the pier we normally went to.
Fortunately, my brother was able to introduce me to someone who seines for a living. He used to be that guy who sold fish at the peir, and he was able to show me how to seine for my own bait fish.
Seining can be a lot of fun, and you’ll be able to control the type of fish you catch. If you’re serious about fishing, seining can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
What is a Seine?
Seining is a method of fishing that involves catching small fish in a long net. Typically this is done by blocking off a part of a river or stream, then catching everything that is swimming in the small area you’ve cordoned off.
If you want to try seining for minnows, you’ll need to start with getting a long net. There are plenty of commercially available seines for sale, but generally speaking, you’ll want to find a net that’s about four feet tall and ten to twenty feet wide.
The commercially available seines will often be made of nylon fibers that can stretch a small amount but won’t deteriorate in the water.
While there are some survivalist types who will insist on making nets from string or hemp, if you’re just starting out, pick a net that’s going to be easy to use.
Nylon fiber nets are much less prone to breakage, and they’ll last for years if you take care of them right. To start out, go ahead and buy a kit that includes the poles.
Later on if you decide you want to upgrade the poles (or get ones that are a better fit for your area), they’re fairly easy to swap out.
You may want to swap them for collapsible aluminum poles, which will make carrying the whole apparatus a lot easier.
This handy pocket guide can go anywhere you fish so you will always be able to tie any knot you need.
Setting Up Your Seine
Attach the net to the two poles so that you form one long banner-like net that can be stretched across a river or stream.
Some nets will have you tie knots to attach the net, but most of the commercial ones available today will have carabiners or clips that attach the net to the pole.
Pick a spot where you have frequently seen minnows or other small bait fish. This can be saline water or freshwater.
Remember that seining is considered to be a type of net fishing in most areas of the country, so be sure to follow any local rules regarding property rights or net fishing.
Getting the Hang of Seining
It’s easiest to set up a seine with two or more people. Each of you take one pole, and stretch out the net across the spot you’ve picked out.
Have the extra people get in the water about thirty feet away from where you’ve set up your net and start walking towards the net.
Think of the job of these people as herding the fish into the net. By splashing and kicking up sand, the fish are scared into swimming away from the cause of all the ruckus, and into the net.
This is why the people who hold the net need to be as calm and still as possible. The fish will try to swim around anything they perceive as a threat.
While the fish are being “herded” towards the net, the other two people will dip the net into the water and catch the fish.
Everyone has a different method of doing this, and it will take some time for you and your partner to find the method that works best for you.
Generally, you’ll want to go straight down into the water, then tilt the net starting from the base while lifting up. This prevents the fish from escaping, and after a few tries it starts to get easy to get into a routine.
Don’t be discouraged if you have to try it for a while before you start to really catch some fish.
Getting the Fish Into the Bucket
Now that you have a net full of fish, you’ll need to get them into your bait bucket. Ideally, you have a two-part bucket that allows you to lift the fish out of the water without having to reach in and catch someone swimming.
These buckets are usually sold at tackle shops, and they’re definitely worth the extra cost.
To get the fish into the bucket, lift the end of the net entirely out of the water, and start walking towards your other pole carrier. If your net is particularly long, try to wrap or roll it around the pole as you move together.
This will save you a lot of hassle trying to untangle your net later on.
As you move together, the fish will naturally swim towards the center of the net that is still submerged in the water. Work quickly, and keep the middle of the net in very shallow water.
Once you have the fish in a small area, lift the net entirely out of the water and pour the fish into your bait bucket.
Some people may ask why you wouldn’t just lift the whole net out of the water before trying to contain the fish. This is because the minnows will try to jump out of the net.
Since they’re already out of the water, they will do anything they can to get back in the water. If you can keep them contained in the water, they’re much more likely to be calm.
It is important to remember that you have to work quickly. It’s much easier for the fish to swim away if the net isn’t held right. If you’re just starting out, you may want to lift completely out of the water and just risk losing a small part of your catch.
Transferring the fish to the bait bucket can also be a bit tricky if you lift your net completely out of the water. If you leave a small portion submerged, you’ll be able to scoop the fish directly into the bucket.
In fact, they’ll usually swim that direction when they notice the bucket has more water than they have in the net.
Seining for fish is fairly easy once you get the hang of it, but expect to take the time to learn how to do it. Be patient, and soon you’ll be able to catch all the bait fish you need.