In a survival situation, you can depend on the fact that you’ll have to eat some things that you never ordinarily consider eating otherwise. This includes a few things that you might use as bait to catch something that is good to eat.
That thought has some harrowing implications for sure, but what exactly are we talking about here? Well, take minnows for instance. Minnows are used the world over as live bait for the catching of larger, tastier fish.
But have you ever stopped to consider whether or not minnows are edible? So what’s the word? Can you eat minnows for survival?
Yes, minnows are edible and completely safe to eat when cooked. Though tiny and quite bony, minnows are nutritious, easy to catch and very easy to prepare, making them a great survival food.
You’ll need to catch a lot of minnows if you want to prepare a worthy fish dinner under the circumstances, but compared to larger species you can find minnows all over and catch them easily using a variety of methods.
This is a great technique to add to your survival repertoire, and you could do a lot worse than minnow for dinner. Keep reading to learn more.
What is a Minnow, Exactly?
Before we go any further, we need to clarify what exactly a minnow is. Minnow, used in virtually all casual conversation, just means a tiny fish. But is that really what it means? Not exactly.
Minnows, believe it or not, are actually a specific species that belongs to a few families of fish, namely Cyprinidae, and among them you’ll find fatheads, chubs, shiners and even carp.
This highly varied taxonomy means that you can find minnows all over the world in various freshwater ecosystems.
Highly diverse and generally very successful, minnows are a vital component of any well-developed aquatic freshwater food chain, and that is why they work so well as bait!
This is important for another reason, because while most minnow species are not regulated or protected in many jurisdictions, that only applies to the species that are true minnows.
If you are referring to minnow as any small fish, and decide to fish accordingly, you could be hauling out species that are protected and risking serious trouble.
Of course, you’ll have to do what you must in a survival situation and ask for forgiveness later, but this is something to keep in mind when you are, let’s say, practicing.
Where Can Minnows Be Found?
Various minnow species can be found all over the world, and the term encompasses so many different fish that an exhaustive listing would take up several articles all unto itself.
But just confining our examination to North America, you can find minnow species from coast to coast, in streams, lakes and all other freshwater bodies.
Common emerald shiners are found all throughout the Great Lakes region and its surrounds, while topminnows can be found in New Mexico, Arizona and elsewhere in the Southwest.
The common shiner is found in all kinds of streams across the nation, virtually in every state while the mosquitofish can be found throughout the Midwest and especially around the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
I could go on, but suffice to say that anywhere you can find fresh water in North America you will find at least one species of minnow.
Also know that for our purposes whatever their differences and whatever variation in taste or quality of meat, minnows fit the bill all the same for our survival requirements.
Minnow Nutritional Info
Detailed nutritional information regarding minnows as human food is difficult or impossible to come by, but using their relatives as a baseline we know that minnows contain plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals along with important nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.
These are all nutrients that a hard-working body needs in a survival situation, with perhaps the only shortcoming of minnows being their small size, since most of them rarely exceed a couple of inches in length.
You’ll need to catch a lot of minnows to make a substantial meal, but this might prove to be easier than you think considering how plentiful these fish are and how easy they are to catch compared to their larger brethren.
In any case, if you are hungry and in the middle of a survival situation you should never, ever turn down a minnow for want of larger game!
Do Minnows Taste Good?
Yes, generally! Minnows, though almost never considered food by people living in North America,can actually prove to be surprisingly tasty.
Many species are described as tasting sweet or Rich and slightly oily, and combined with the right ingredients and good preparation can make for a delicious snack or meal unto themselves.
As you might be expecting, minnows can be prepared much like larger fish only on a smaller scale, but since they are so bony and so tiny many preparations involve cooking the fish whole.
Is it Safe to Eat Minnows Raw?
As tempting as it is to brace yourself and simply swallow minnows whole, you really shouldn’t, no matter how many “rite of passage” moments your sadistic uncle that taught you how to fish put you through.
Minnows, like all fish and all wild animals, are host to all sorts of pathogens in the form of bacteria, viruses and parasites they can make you dreadfully sick if you ingest them raw, and specially if you ingest them live, whole and wriggling.
Now, you might be saying something right this moment about sushi this or sushi that, but minnows don’t belong in sushi, and even if they did, you are not catching your minnows from any water source that is so pristine you don’t have to worry about the problems I already mentioned.
Even though they are tiny, even though you might be half starving, make it a point to thoroughly clean and cook your minnows prior to preparation. This will ensure that any harmful germs are eradicated prior to eating.
Remember, you cannot afford to come down with food poisoning or something even worse when you are already in the middle of a dire situation!
Can You Eat Minnow Scales?
Yes, although they might be noticeable and unpleasant on the largest minnows.
Minnows are so tiny and delicate that cleaning them can lead to frustration and destruction of meat, and the preparation of minnows in many different cuisines around the world simply cook up the fish whole.
Whether you want to mess around with scaling minnows or not is up to you, but you should at least try them with the scales on so you know if it is worth investing the time and effort or not.
How About Minnow Eggs?
Yes, you can eat minnow eggs, assuming you can find the itty bitty things. Like most caviar, or fish eggs, minnow eggs are safe for consumption if you can find them, but as usual they should be gently cooked.
Note that they are so tiny and so ephemeral this is hardly worth the trouble. Concentrate on the fish themselves instead.
Is it True You Can Eat Minnow Bones?
In some cases, yes, you can. Now, you have probably already heard me go on and on about the dangers associated with eating bones, including fish bones, in other articles throughout this series. But minnows represent an exception to this rule.
Minnows, despite their small size, are surprisingly bony. However, their bones are so fine and delicate that they can be eaten after having been thoroughly cooked.
Many preparations, like pan-fried whole minnows, fry them up with bones and all, and the bones simply offer an interesting and crispy texture to the rest of the fish.
Again, whether you want to spend the time trying to bone a minnow is up to you, but they are so small and difficult to work with this will probably prove challenging.
As long as you thoroughly cook the bones until they are brittle you shouldn’t have any problems eating them so long as you chew them up thoroughly.
Can You Eat Minnow Organs?
Yes, you can, but this is one step in the cleaning process that you generally shouldn’t skip if you want to ensure the best taste.
The organs of the minnow at least can be extracted easily enough with a small incision or, if you are really pressed for time and tools, simply by squeezing the fish like a tube of toothpaste.
Do note, however, that some cultures leave the organs in when preparing minnows for human consumption since this is said to improve the taste and texture.
Whether this is true or not I will leave it up to you to find out! But once again, in any case, make sure you cook them thoroughly if you decide to go this route.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.