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Into The Outdoors: The Nightcrawler, My Favorite Bait

Hey, it’s May! I know I say this every year, but May is just about my favorite month of the year. During forty-nine years as a student and teacher, it meant the end of school was near. There is new life everywhere. The morning after a rainy night smells fresh and clean. The birds are singing and the leaves are out. I recently mentioned that I hadn’t seen red-winged blackbirds. Now, they are all over my feeders. Even better is the anticipation of the summer to come. Furthermore, since recovering from cataract surgery, I can now fish again. Consequently, I’d like for us to take a look at my favorite bait.

Most of us like to use a variety of baits and lures when pursuing the various residents of our lakes, rivers, and streams. We all usually have a personal favorite, though. For me, it’s the nightcrawler. It’s been my experience that, if there’s a fish around, and it’s hungry, it will go for a fat, juicy worm. Over the years, I’ve caught trout, panfish, bass, catfish, carp, suckers, and even a northern pike or two with them.

It sort of puzzles me why some folks look down on night crawlers. When you think about it, most of us around here got our start with a can of worms. An interesting aside is that nightcrawlers are, in addition to being great bait, very beneficial to the soil, aerating and fertilizing it.

Catching a batch of crawlers is really a pretty simple process. On a rainy night, get a container and flashlight and head for the yard. Some people like to use a red covering over the light. I find it hard to see the crawlers with one of these, and I’ve done just fine without it. You must remember to walk softly, as the critters are very sensitive to vibrations in the ground.

Once you catch a batch of crawlers, you have to take the proper steps to keep them alive and fresh. Personally, I always use commercial worm bedding to store mine. The same holds true for a container. The store-bought ones are made especially for this purpose, and they do a good job. Just follow the directions carefully.

It’s necessary to feed your worms from time to time. Commercial worm food is available, but plain old cornmeal will work just fine, too. Place it in straight lines on top of the bedding.

Crawlers must be stored in a cool place, like a basement or refrigerator. Also, the bedding must be checked frequently to keep it from drying out. If you neglect these precautions, you’ll get a horrible surprise when you lift the lid of the container. The horrific stench of dead nightcrawlers is in a class all by itself. To make matters worse, you’ll be without bait. Along the same lines, be very careful about leaving nightcrawlers in your car. They’ll die and rot in an amazingly short time, and the smell will linger in the car for a very long time.

There are lots of ways to fish with nightcrawlers. They can be fished alone, or used as a trailer on jigs or other lures. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to inject a crawler with a bit of air to keep it slightly off the bottom. I like to hook them twice, right near the front. This way, they stay on the hook better. A little fish-attractant scent on them often entices fish to action. When fishing in situations in which small baits are required, pieces of nightcrawlers will work just fine.

As I’ve gotten older, I find it impossible to catch my own crawlers. Walking around bent over would wreak havoc on my back and, for some reason, my knees. On one occasion, years ago, I forgot to straighten up and had to lie down on the porch to unlock my back. It’s pretty rough getting old, but it beats the heck out of dying young.

Nightcrawlers are both beneficial to the soil and wonderful fishing bait. They are plentiful and, if you catch your own, free. Even when you buy them, which I always do nowadays, the prices are seldom high. Give the lowly crawler a try. Or, more likely, give this time-proven fish-getter another chance. I think you’ll be glad you did.


Chris Henderson email:

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