Nightcrawlers Are Great Bait, Easy to Catch and Keep for Fishing

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It rained last night and just walking from the deck to the car this morning I picked up nine nightcrawlers that were crawling on the driveway. I put them in a worm box in the bait refrigerator in the garage where they will be comfortable until I can get away to take them fishing.

I was thinking about fishing baits and lures as I drove to the office, kind of mentally taking inventory of my tackle boxes and deciding what, if anything, I need to replace or add to my gear for this year’s fishing. After fishing for more years than I care to admit, I have to confess I have way more fishing “stuff” than I’ll ever use. Of course, that’s not just me, 90 percent of the serious fishermen I know have similar collections.

The ironic part is, although having a half-dozen tackle boxes crammed with all types, shapes, sizes, weights and colors of lures is somewhat comforting in a strange way, I could probably catch about as many or more fish if I forgot about all the fancy lures and just used nightcrawlers.

In my opinion, nightcrawlers are the best all-around bait for catching a variety of fish species, and for the price-conscious (and who isn’t anymore) it is important that they are free for the taking. People who live in most areas of Nebraska can collect two or three dozen nightcrawlers from their own land after a light rain or a couple of hours of watering the lawn, unless the lawn has been treated with weed killer or some other noxious chemical. But, if that’s the case, all is not lost, just recruit the kids to go down to a city park or nearby vacant lot to do the collecting for you.

If you have never been nightcrawler hunting, here’s what you should know to get started:

1.) Just after dusk nightcrawlers crawl partially out of their holes in sparse grassy areas and lay stretched-out on the ground.

2.) Fold a paper towel a couple of times or get a small sheet of red cellophane and tape it over the lens of a regular flashlight to soften the light so it won’t startle the ‘crawler. If you hit a ‘crawler with the beam of a bright flashlight, will dart back into its tunnel before you can grab it.

3.) Carry a small amount of sawdust or dry worm bedding with you to keep your hands dry while grabbing ‘crawlers.

4.) Carry a container such as a half-gallon-size plastic milk carton or a plastic liter- size soft drink container with the tops cut off, or a regular bucket, to hold captured ‘crawlers.

5.) Walk slowly and softly in the damp grass shining the muted flashlight beam on the ground ahead to locate ‘crawlers. A ‘crawler is easy to spot stretched out across the ground. When you see one, quickly turn the light away and approach the ‘crawler slowly. Some hunters choose to crawl along on their hands and knees rather than to move about hunched-over while hunting.

6.) When the ‘crawler is within reach, quickly put one hand over it, gently pinning it to the ground so it cannot pull back into its tunnel. Hold it down with that hand and grasp it near the tunnel opening with the other hand and gently pull it from the tunnel. Don’t try to jerk it out of the tunnel or you can injure or even break it in two. As you grab, you will feel it contract and try to pull away; so just hold on and in a few seconds it will relax and can be gradually and gently extracted from the hole.

7.) Inexpensive commercially-made nightcrawler boxes can be purchased at most sporting goods stores and many bait vendors. Use a good quality commercial bedding or sphagnum moss to keep the crawlers alive and well. A small mount of food should occasionally be added. Follow the instructions on bedding and food containers closely to keep the bait healthy.

8.) Nightcrawlers should be stored in a cool location. An old refrigerator is ideal if you can regulate its temperature. Store ‘crawlers between 45-50 degrees. They will do well at that temperature and will be sluggish enough that they won’t try to crawl out of the box.

9.) Mix the bedding according to directions on the bag and put it loosely into the box. Dampen a full-size newspaper with water, but don’t get it so wet that it drips. Fold the paper and lay it on top of the bedding to keep the bedding moist. Remove it only to add ‘crawlers to the box, remove a few for fishing, or to check on the ‘crawlers.

10.) Check the box every few days and remove sick or dead ‘crawlers. Those that are injured or ill generally crawl to the top of the bedding, so they are easy to find. Decaying worms produce a gas that kills other ‘crawlers in the box, so remove any that appear to be in less than excellent physical condition. Good ‘crawlers are round, shiny and fat and just “look” healthy.

Try using nightcrawlers this year. There are few fish that can’t be taken on healthy nightcrawlers.

~ Tom Keith  ~