Earthworms are probably the most common fish bait used on the planet. There is an entire industry dedicated to producing worms for sale to the fishing public. If you have time and want to occasionally spend some quality time with the kids, try gathering your own.
The two most common worms in our area are night crawlers and red worms. Night crawlers are the big ones that grow to over 6 inches long and the thickness of a pencil. Red worms, also called garden worms, are similar in appearance but much small, only 2-3 inches long with slim bodies. Here are some tips on hunting worms.
Night crawlers, as their name implies, mate and migrate at night. When the temperature hits 60-65 degrees, the skies are overcast and the ground is moist after a rain, it’s time to hunt crawlers. A lawn with good soil where the grass is short and well watered is a good place to hunt. If the soil is dry, the night crawlers won’t come to the surface.
To gather crawlers you hunt them with a flashlight, or even better a headlamp to leave your hands free for picking. Bright white light scares night crawlers underground, so cover the lens of your flashlight with red cellophane or use a dim light. Walk softly, as worms are very sensitive to vibration and will retreat if disturbed. When you spy a night crawler, only a small portion usually sticks out of the ground. Grasp it quickly just below the collar — the thickened, lighter colored portion about one-third of the way along the body. Don’t jerk the worm from the ground or it will break. As you grab the worm, it will contract the muscles in its tail and try to escape. Just hold on gently until the worm relaxes, then you can easily pull it from the ground without damage.
Red worms like moist, rich soil, so a well managed garden is a good place to find them, especially one with plenty of organic matter that makes the soil dark. You can attract them to the surface by laying a couple of boards on the ground. Pour dishwater over them until the soil is saturated and leave it alone for several days. The dishwater contains nutrients and the boards keep the area cool and moist. All you’ll have to do is raise the boards and pick the worms off the soil surface. If you dig for worms, turn the soil lightly with a garden fork so fewer worms will be cut or injured.
You can carry worms in almost any container with some soil from the place where you picked them. Keep the worms cool and moist, but not wet. In warm summer weather, consider keeping your bait in a cooler with ice or freezer packs. Worms are good bait for nearly all freshwater fish. If you have small worms, thread the hook through the side of the worm at several places along its body. For bait-stealing fish such as bluegill, thread the worm on the hook until the hook is completely covered.