Creek Chubs "a how to guide"

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Creek Chubs "a how to guide"

Every spring I get lots of PMs and E-mails with questions about how to catch and keep creek chubs for bait.  I figured I would post all of the information and advice I have here for a quick reference guide and link so I don't have to retype the same info over and over.

Maybe Tim could even sticky this post for the next month or two while the chubs are running, easy to catch, and working good for bait.

Creek Chubs begin their spring run in ND in mid April as soon as the snow melt & run off starts filling the drainage creeks.  The Chubs can be caught in these creeks as long as they hold water for the rest of the year.

I have caught creek chubs in just about any stream & creek that runs into permanent major bodies of water in central North Dakota, especially the creeks that drain into the mouse river system.  It doesn't even have to be close to the major lake or river either.  I have caught chubs in tiny creeks up to 15 miles away from the mouse river.

The first step is to locate some chub creeks.  I like to use google earth to zero in on potential spots.  Look for coulee bottoms, "veins" of trees, or the actual creeks, weaving through the terrain that lead to the nearest river or lake. 

Then drive to the spots you picked out to make sure its not on posted land and that its an area that might hold fish.  Bridges, pools, and culverts seem to be the best spots that consistently hold chubs.  Some good looking spots below.

There are several methods to collect chubs.  My favorite and the most efficient for me so far is to catch them one at a time on hook and line.  I have tried trapping them many times with a variety of traps and I just can't seem to get the numbers as fast & reliable as I can with a fishing pole.  It seems like the chubs are smart enough to exit the traps once the bait is gone (I like to use a mix of bread and dry dog food). I've tried dip nets and even cast nets in states where they're legal, but creek chubs are way too fast for them and seem to get out of the way of any net before being caught.

If you do decide to trap chubs, be sure to check the updated Game and Fish Department's proclamation for rules and regulations regarding bait trapping, and netting.

A simple clip on bobber and a tiny ice fishing jig with a piece of worm, gulp, wax worm, or spike for bait works the best.  If there are chubs in the area you shouldn't have to wait more than 30 seconds to get a bite.  you'll want the depth setting to hold the jig from mid level to just off bottom.  below are some of the jigs I use, red seems to be the best color.  in a good area I can average about 1 chub per minute.

While fishing for chubs chances are you'll catch one or more of the several other native species that live in the same areas as chubs.  make sure you know the difference since the only legal live baitfish in ND is the Fathead Minnow, and the Creek Chub.  below is some of the more common "by catch" you'll come across.

The common shiners

and the breeding male common shiner

emerald shiners

longnose dace

sand shiners

  
blacksided darters

Keep in mind there are many more species than the ones I showed above here in ND, like mud minnows, other shiners, dace, and darters, and of course you'll even catch the more easily recognizable ones like suckers, perch, stonecats, etc...

While catching chubs I keep them in a 5 gallon bucket with a battery powered bubbler and a lid (chubs jump...alot!).  you can get a battery powered aerator at walmart for 8 to 12 bucks.

I recommend having a large tank already set up at home before you start collecting.  Large coolers, rubbermades, metal stock tanks, aquariums, or just about anything that holds 30 or more gallons of water you can put a lid & a filter on will work.   

The ideal spot for the tank is in a cool corner of the basement, but chubs are tuff and can usually withstand the higher temps on hot days if the tank is in the garage.  maybe put a frozen water jug in the tank to cool it on those really hot days.

Always have a cover on the tank.  Chubs start jumping the instant you're not around and a few dozen chubs will be floppin on the floor in just a few minutes.

I use the large double sided power filter that's usually sold at walmart for 30-40 bucks.  They move alot of water (300 gph) and use a very universally common and easy to find filter cartrige.

here is the set up I have been using for years.

Once you have the tank set up, do not add too many chubs at first.  the tank needs to "cycle" before it can break down the waste and ammonia of dozens of fish.  This is don'e by bacteria that eats and breaks down ammonia, to nitrite, and then to nitrate.  This process can be achieved much faster by putting used "dirty" filter cartriges from an already established tank into the new filter.  the dirty cartriges are already populated with millions of bacteria ready to begin breaking down chub poo.  If you don't have other fish tanks around the house like I do, most local pet shops would be glad to exchange a couple of their dirty filters for your new clean ones.  just make sure you bring the filter home in a bag with some water in it so they don't dry out.

Maybe start with only a dozen or so chubs for the first few days or a week to make sure the tank is cycled and the water isn't going to get cloudy, smelly, or kill the fish from ammonia poisoning.

when you add the chubs or transfer them from one place to another always make sure that the water temp you're adding them to feels about the same as the water they are in.  if the bucket I brought them home in is colder than the tank, I'll let the bucket sit next to the chub tank with the aerator in it for an hour or so until the temp equalizes.  They are pretty sensitive to temperature shock and will die within hours from it.

Remember the lid....ALWAYS CLOSE THE LID!!!

Never keep or put minnows in with the chubs.  The chubs eat the minnows and what they don't eat they kill and it makes a real mess of the tank.  I don't even feed my chubs and they last for well over a month or two without food, but if you must feed them use a pet shop pellet or flake food and feed them as little as possible.

chubs range in size from 3" to 12", the big monsters work great for pike & musky hooked thru the back under a bobber, on live bait lindy style rigs, or trolled behind a bottom bouncer with a stinger in the tail.  the small to med ones work even better on jigs for walleyes & smallmouth bass.


 
It's late April, the chubs are running! good luck.

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I wish I could find chubs around bismarck, Ive tried several spots that looked promising last summer and had no luck at all. Are they easier to catch this time of year? I was trying creeks that flow directly into the Missouri, maybe there isnt a creek chub population in the big river though.. Great post BTW!

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I think I'm going to have to print this out and put it on the refrigerator!!  Good Stuff MSA!!!!

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Looks like you're giving Elton John a chub.  Good stuff.

 Nuke the Whales

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Lycanthrope Said:
I wish I could find chubs around bismarck, Ive tried several spots that looked promising last summer and had no luck at all. Are they easier to catch this time of year? I was trying creeks that flow directly into the Missouri, maybe there isnt a creek chub population in the big river though.. Great post BTW!

Try that little creek that runs under the far east ends of Divide and Century.

Good post MSA

 "Play it Mr.Toot"

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Lycanthrope Said:
I wish I could find chubs around bismarck, Ive tried several spots that looked promising last summer and had no luck at all. Are they easier to catch this time of year? I was trying creeks that flow directly into the Missouri, maybe there isnt a creek chub population in the big river though.. Great post BTW!

Go shallow & narrower than you think would hold chubs.  Creeks that flow into large rivers like the Missouri hold too many predators in their wider spots.  Fish further away from the river in parts of the creek that are only a foot or two wide and as deep.

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I have my secret spot but the info on keeping them is great.  I try to only take as many as I am going to use.  Great stuff MSA.

There are always eyes taking cranks somewhere!

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Excellant original post  I have the same tank and use the same filter system, and it works better in the basement than the garage.  I've tried some different filter systems and what not and seem to always try to put too many in the tank.  I even had a divider for minnows at one point.  I now use spare fridge in the garage with 5 gal buckets and an areator.

I quit catching them by rod a long time ago, but I agree it is quick.  One thing to add to the OP.   When you are catching them with rod, throw out a trap at the same time.  I usually caught just as many in the trap as with the rod thus doubling my take.  The go to the trap quick!    If you don't check your traps every day there will be no creek chubs in them, or very few.

I like to throw a few chips in the traps along with dog food.  I've had real good luck on the FIRE HOT cheetos.

I've tried using nets even two at a time with blockers.  Tthat was the only way to get many creek chubs, they are tough to sein.  Bringing up a couple snappers in the net and finging easier methods mentioned earlier has kept me dry and my toes safe. 

One thing about netting.  You won't believe the amount of life in the creeks!   The variety of minnows is crazy. 

Oh and make sure you have a LID on whatever you use to store them them.   They will jump out even a small crack.  My buckets in the bait fridge has taught me that. 

"Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy.".     Dan Gabel

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Turtle river is full of them, after the flood.  Right now the river is hammering away at my property.  Up 36th St NE (north of Larimore) bout 1.5 miles north of Hwy 2.  Nice bridge to fish off of.  I've seen guys catch lots of nice sized chubs and suckers there.  My property is on the south part of the creek, feel free to walk up and down it to fish, up to the big bend, then it's anothers property.  If I see any trash, I WILL post it.  Keep it clean and it will stay open.  There's a beaver dam there, the chubs are on both sides, but west of it is the deepest water, seems like the biggest chubs.  Don't go west of the bridge, they are not fisherman/tresspasser friendly.  Unless there is ppl fishing from the bridge, there is no need to go off it though, u will catch more than u need.  I live on the top of the hill just south of the river, names John.


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 I've never seen so many guys get excited about a 12" chub....

Is it impious to weigh goose music and art in the same scales? I think not, because the true hunter is merely a noncreative artist. Who painted the first picture on a bone in the caves of France? A hunter. Who alone in our modern life so thrills to the sight of living beauty that he will endure hunger and thirst and cold to feed his eye upon it? The hunter. Who wrote the great hunter's poem about the sheer wonder of the wind, the hail, and the snow, the stars, the lightnings, and the clouds, the lion, the deer, and the wild goat, the raven, the hawk, and the eagle, and above all the eulogy to the horse? Job, one of the great dramatic artists of all time. Poets sing and hunters scale the mountains primarily for one and the same reason--the thrill of beauty. Critics write and hunters outwit their game primarily for one and the same reason--to reduce that beauty to possession. The differences are largely matters of degree, consciousness, and that sly arbiter of the classification of human activities, language. If, then, we can live without goose music, we may as well do away with stars, or sunsets, or Iliads. But the point is we would be fools to do away with any of them. 

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FrozenInTime Said:
Turtle river is full of them, after the flood.  Right now the river is hammering away at my property.  Up 36th St NE (north of Larimore) bout 1.5 miles north of Hwy 2.  Nice bridge to fish off of.  I've seen guys catch lots of nice sized chubs and suckers there.  My property is on the south part of the creek, feel free to walk up and down it to fish, up to the big bend, then it's anothers property.  If I see any trash, I WILL post it.  Keep it clean and it will stay open.  There's a beaver dam there, the chubs are on both sides, but west of it is the deepest water, seems like the biggest chubs.  Don't go west of the bridge, they are not fisherman/tresspasser friendly.  Unless there is ppl fishing from the bridge, there is no need to go off it though, u will catch more than u need.  I live on the top of the hill just south of the river, names John.

John Browning=GENIUS
NDA Rocks!

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 Thanks for the good info MSA, and the nice gesture, John.

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 Seeing as it has been cooler in fargo and flooding. Are the chubs running in fargo?

Fishing is Fishing NOT Catching.
Get Some Patience...

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 Great post. Thanks for the tips!!

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Hey MSA, when you get a chance, can you look at the areas around bismarck and point out some spots you think look promising? I think you might be right about the spots I was trying, prolly too close to the big river. I have tried hay creek, where it flows under divide, by CK auto and caught a few small suckers, but never any chubs or shiners. That might be too large of a stream also tho, not sure...

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When i was really young growing up in Theif River Falls MN, we use to go catch all the shiners we could handle for bait same deal just a stick and line small hook boom done quick, then slam norskies all day was alot of fun


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I used to take my bike a couple miles from my house and catch them just for fun when I was a kid.  Tried to catch as many species as I could.  They are fun to catch on a topwater fly or popper too.  Most of the ones I caught had a more defined dark stripe on the sides than you have pictured.  There is a dace that looks a lot like a chub as well except the shape of the mouth and head.

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."

"The constitution only gives people the right to pursue hapiness.  You have to catch it yourself."

"Well done is better than well said."

"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

All by:  Benjamin Franklin.

"The solution to any problem - work, love, money, whatever - is to go fishing, and the bigger the problem, the longer the trip should be."

Author: John Gierach

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Captain Ahab Said:
I used to take my bike a couple miles from my house and catch them just for fun when I was a kid.  Tried to catch as many species as I could.  They are fun to catch on a topwater fly or popper too.  Most of the ones I caught had a more defined dark stripe on the sides than you have pictured.  There is a dace that looks a lot like a chub as well except the shape of the mouth and head.

The "bar" or stripe I was referring to:

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."

"The constitution only gives people the right to pursue hapiness.  You have to catch it yourself."

"Well done is better than well said."

"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

All by:  Benjamin Franklin.

"The solution to any problem - work, love, money, whatever - is to go fishing, and the bigger the problem, the longer the trip should be."

Author: John Gierach

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The dace I was referring to is a blacknose dace.  Very easy to confuse with a creek chub if you don't look really close.

"Diligence is the mother of good luck."

"The constitution only gives people the right to pursue hapiness.  You have to catch it yourself."

"Well done is better than well said."

"Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

All by:  Benjamin Franklin.

"The solution to any problem - work, love, money, whatever - is to go fishing, and the bigger the problem, the longer the trip should be."

Author: John Gierach

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Lycanthrope Said:
Hey MSA, when you get a chance, can you look at the areas around bismarck and point out some spots you think look promising? I think you might be right about the spots I was trying, prolly too close to the big river. I have tried hay creek, where it flows under divide, by CK auto and caught a few small suckers, but never any chubs or shiners. That might be too large of a stream also tho, not sure...

Have you tried Burnt Creek in the Hawktree area?

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No, mostly I tried streams on the mandan side, down towards the casino, if you drive off to the west there are some bridges and stuff in that area, but its not a 'jump across' type stream. I tried that and hay creek near my house.

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Have a lot of the horny head chubs in the FR that look very similar. You have to look for  the humps on the head.

Captain Ahab Said:

Captain Ahab Said:
I used to take my bike a couple miles from my house and catch them just for fun when I was a kid.  Tried to catch as many species as I could.  They are fun to catch on a topwater fly or popper too.  Most of the ones I caught had a more defined dark stripe on the sides than you have pictured.  There is a dace that looks a lot like a chub as well except the shape of the mouth and head.

The "bar" or stripe I was referring to:

Education will tell you a tomato is a fruit, while wisdom will tell you not to put it in a fruit salad.

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Could be these:

PUGNOSE SHINER
Small shiner, only 2 inches in length. Olive on top,with a thin black line that runs along upper
back. Sides and belly silvery,with a black outline around edge of scales.Mouth is sharply
upturned.
Habitat and range: Documented in both Sheyenne and Forest rivers. Possibly present in other
Red River tributaries. Prefers clear water, usually with vegetation.
Why: Unclear whether it still occurs in the state. Sensitivity to increased sedimentation the
likely cause of its decline.

Captain Ahab Said:

Captain Ahab Said:
I used to take my bike a couple miles from my house and catch them just for fun when I was a kid.  Tried to catch as many species as I could.  They are fun to catch on a topwater fly or popper too.  Most of the ones I caught had a more defined dark stripe on the sides than you have pictured.  There is a dace that looks a lot like a chub as well except the shape of the mouth and head.

The "bar" or stripe I was referring to:

Education will tell you a tomato is a fruit, while wisdom will tell you not to put it in a fruit salad.

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 just remember that spawning male creek chubs get horns on their heads as well.

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How much current can they take?  Are flooded ditches a good place to try, or does it need to carry water for a longer period of time?


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muddy11 Said:
How much current can they take?  Are flooded ditches a good place to try, or does it need to carry water for a longer period of time?

They can take fast current, but I would stick to semi permanent creeks and streams

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 Can you still catch them this late? Me and a buddy went out today to a few holes we know in the Minot area with 0 luck. One spot had a crap load of 12" pike. They were fun at least 

Ya cant grill it Till ya kill it

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Do most people fish these just like fatheads? And do they out fish them? I know a buddy that has these in a creek by his house, just wondering how much better they work?

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4570killer Said:
 Can you still catch them this late? Me and a buddy went out today to a few holes we know in the Minot area with 0 luck. One spot had a crap load of 12" pike. They were fun at least 

Some spots in the Minot area dried up last summer and fall, areas I have never seen dry before that normally hold chins.  My guess is with the later slower runoff and the die off of the local chins last year, new ones just havnt made it that far up stream yet.  Probably need some hard rains to get enough flow to draw them up that far again.

I am catching them in creeks closer to the river, like out toward Logan and Sawyer.

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ditchparrot Said:
Do most people fish these just like fatheads? And do they out fish them? I know a buddy that has these in a creek by his house, just wondering how much better they work?

Yes, yes, and yes

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Ok thanks for the info msa, guess I will have to get off my butt and try to get some this weekend!! Thanks again