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Make your own minnow trap

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.


Click here for a PDF version of these instructions.

You’re ready for fishing. You’ve got everything … but bait. And no cash to buy any. Well, forget throwing money at minnows. Gather your own! It’s simple with this easy-to make trap. Here’s how:

You’ll Need:

  • Two plastic soda pop bottles. The three-liter size is best, but two-liter will do.
  • One woodworking nail, about 6-penny size (the exact size is unimportant).
  • Some twine, kite string or something similar.
  • Adult permission and/or help.

For tools, scrounge up a pair of sturdy scissors and locking pliers (such as Vise-Grip) or common slip-joint pliers. A utility knife can help with initial cuts but isn’t necessary. You’ll also need a controllable flame source — the kitchen stove is perfect.

Step 1STEP 1: Label one bottle “A” and the other “B.” Cut off the bottom one-third of bottle A and put in your home recycling bin. Leave the bottle cap on.

Step 2STEP 2: On B, cut off the neck & shoulders, close to the top of the bottle label. It should be cut just below — maybe a half inch or so — where the sides begin to straighten out. Toss the bottom and spare bottle cap in the recycling bin.

Step 3STEP 3: The remaining steps should be done near your flame source, with the pliers and nail handy. Keep a bowl with cold water nearby also. Fit funnelshaped piece (B) into the bottom of A so it points toward A’s remaining bottle cap. It should now form a nice little “cave.”

Step 4STEP 4: Holding the two bottles together firmly in your weak hand (left hand if you’re right-handed, right if you’re left-handed), turn on the flame with the other hand. Pick up the pliers with your free hand and firmly grasp the nail near its head with the pliers. Carefully hold the nail over the flame so that it gets good and hot.

Step 5STEP 5: Keeping your grip on both the A and B bottle parts and the hot nail in the pliers, push the nail point through both the funnel and bottle, in 10 to 12 spots around the lip of the “cave” that we mentioned. Drop the hot nail into the cold water.

Step 6 and 7STEP 6: Using your string or twine, sew the two bottle parts together. Alternately, simply cut the string into short pieces, using the same number of pieces as there are holes, and individually tie each hole up so that the two plastic parts A and B don’t come apart.

STEP 7: Reheat the nail as in Step 4, and put a bunch of holes all over the sides of the bottle (A). A couple of dozen should do it.

Setting Your Minnow Trap

To use your trap, add some bread or cracker bits through the funnel (B). Sink the trap in your favorite pond or lake for a few hours, preferably overnight. Tie it securely to a dock or tree. The minnows will go in the trap but aren’t smart enough to get out. Next morning, simply open the bottle cap and pour the minnows into your bait bucket. You’re all set for a day of fishing!

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25 Comments on Make your own minnow trap

  1. Here’s a tip: cut a small circle of window screen a little bigger than the inside cap (ask your parents first), and make a hole in the top of the inside cap and tie the window screen to the inside part of the cap, and if you put it in a river, point the trap the same way the river is flowing so when the window screen opens the minnows can get in, but cannot get out.

  2. i luv runescape ! // April 6, 2007 at 10:21 pm // Reply

    i will definitely try i have a pond in my yard its 3 acres aroound!

  3. i will give it a shot. hope it works in the small creek right by my house.

  4. Cool!

    the problem is I don’t live anywhere near a pond!

  5. this really works .but it takes alon g time

  6. black belt // April 5, 2007 at 11:24 pm // Reply

    this trap totally works i caught 8 minnows, 4 chubs, 3 red tail minnows, 1 sucker fish …..and even a really small (baby) trout. of course i made my minnow trap much larger by using 3 …3 liter bottles i use the 3rd as a middle extension

    but i use a little different materials

    i use a wood burner for holes just because its faster the nail method will work great but takes a little longer .

    And to connect all parts i use bread ties AND BEFORE I PUT IT TOGETHER I PUT A FEW SMALL ROCKS IN IT TO WEIGH IT DOWN.

    I hope u all have good luck.

    1 more thing …when you add the middle part burn 2 holes parallel to one another and then put the bread ties in to connect them.

    1 more thing again pull trap in slowly and its a little safe if you use more then 1 line to pull it in for example 1 line at each segment or 1 line at each end.

  7. JhotwheelsA // April 5, 2007 at 9:29 am // Reply

    ill try it this summer

  8. i think this would be a great sciene project

  9. fisherwoman // April 4, 2007 at 4:03 pm // Reply

    This trap is really worth taking the 15 minutes to make it and give it a try. I think it works better than most ideas.

  10. minnows aren’t that smart but they are not stupid. (beleive me i have tried)

  11. I like It!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. kongfu master // April 3, 2007 at 6:30 am // Reply

    i am going to try it!!!!!!

  13. I would use a one valve so if the minos are smart they could get out.

  14. Nice but i would not use it. (‘–‘)

  15. I am deffenetly going to do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. this is cool you should try it because minnios are imposible to cacth without it

  17. This works great in deep spots in rivers. I caught alot of minnows and some crawfish it was really cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. i like the idea and next time im on vacation or going out fishing ill try it.

  19. camo dog kid // March 30, 2007 at 6:13 pm // Reply

    we are going to try it

  20. thenomoneyfisherman // March 26, 2007 at 2:58 am // Reply

    well you can always take about 8 bucks and get one from wally world but the bottle does make sense its basically the same structure just that its made of wire, and if someone steals your bottle oh well a coke bottle isnt as high as a metal one and you can make those at will im going to give it a try with the one i bought, what can it hurt but just a little time out of your day. i suggest anyone go for it, good luck and be safe in the water everyone and have fun

  21. 2 cool 4 u // March 15, 2007 at 8:24 am // Reply

    awesome job i set up my trap and came up with 13 minnows!

  22. Duggie_nutz // March 7, 2007 at 7:54 am // Reply

    I have made similar traps before as a kid to catch minnows and they do work. My only suggestion is to put the bait in a nylon stocking to help keep the bait in the trap longer.

  23. Pedro's Keeper // March 6, 2007 at 10:13 am // Reply

    Will try all the minnow trap suggestions next time I go on vacation, and report back. Nice job BW.

  24. I think you should use a larger bottle if you want to catch more minnows!

  25. Hmm … I’m not so sure that invention will work so well. The fish are probably smart enough to get out of the trap. Here’s one way that works for me that is much faster. You will need a window screen about 3’x3′ — anything around that size will work. You will also need some fishing line and a piece of bait that is solid and will not fall off if tied (e.g. a shrimp or some tough meat from mom’s beef stew last night, etc.). First, string about a foot of the fishing line through the center of the screen and tie it off in the middle of the line. Then, place the bait atop the line and securely tie the bait down. Then, cut the string into four equal sections. Tie each length of line to each corner of the screen. Drop the screen into the water, holding the four strings. Then, busy yourself for about 15 minutes. Return to the site and pull up the screen, making sure that each line is level. You will have a large catch of fish in a much shorter time.

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