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water dogs are the larval (gilled) form of the aquatic tiger salamander they have the shape of a lizard but skin more like a frog and the larvel form has gills to breath under water
 

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if i was fishing them on the bottom with a slip rig i would hookem in the under side at the base of the tail so that they swim and move better

if i was tossing them like a plastic then i would hook em thru the lips bottom to top and go wieghtless or carolina rig em if i wanted to get them down
 

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yes you can use shinners and other minnows east of the continental divide below 7000 ft altitude we have even discussed using gold fish and by the letter of the regs it is ok but some have run into wardens that disagree

lots of shops sell shiners and fathead minows but not sure how late into the season they are available i get mine from a pet/fish store down here
 

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remember if you keep them for awhile and they lose their gills they are no longer legal for bait only the gilled form
 
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