Small, constantly moving fish are difficult to count accurately. To calculate large quantities of fish, hatcheries net a sample of fish, weigh the flopping collection, and then quickly count the number of fish in the net. They repeat this procedure several times and arrive at an average number of fish per pound.
Bait dealers, or private pond owners who need to forage fish for stocking purposes, purchase fish by the pound, rather than an exact number.
Amusingly, some novice bait shops are greatly mistaken that the quantity of “two dozen minnows” equals 24, so it’s important to know the true meaning. Of the two most common bait fish, golden shiners are larger than fathead minnows and thus easier to count. But, repeat business is greatly jeopardized by counting every “plip” of a minnow dipped from tank to minnow bucket.
In reality, “two dozen” is not an actual number, but a density.
This quantity is to be measured at a glance, by how much the shifting, bouncing minnows obscure the bottom of the bucket. “One dozen minnows” will have a lot of empty space to share (and may actually be close to 24). Any quantity over “three dozen minnows” should not reveal ANY of the bottom. “two dozen minnows” then, is somewhere in between.
At one of my local bait shops, one of the proprietors consistently makes this faux pas so I try to wait until the other one is working the counter… The guy who knows that I don’t want to see that much bottom.
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