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There is no fish so proud that it won't give in to the wriggling temptation of a sultry nightcrawler.
Many natural baits attract only a few species, but nearly all freshwater fish eat worms. How many of you cut your teeth on fishing with worms but have since forgotten them in favor of artificial lures. Artificials have their place, as do earthworms or nightcrawlers. At certain times, a wise angler will use a piece of worm to enhance their artificial presentation. Nightcrawlers get their name from the fact that they come to the surface at night. Since worms breathe through their skins, nightcrawlers will come to the surface when water fills their tunnels. Being more active in darkness, because of their natural habitat, allows one to harvest their supply most readily at night. Anglers are often puzzled on how to catch worms and keep them alive for a day's fishing. Catching worms and keeping them alive and kicking is not difficult.
Worms, whether earthworms or nightcrawlers, are the most popular live baits. They like warm and wet weather. Wait until it has been dark for at least two to three hours, then prowl around your lawn, a golf course or a park. To gather nightcrawlers, you have to see them. A flashlight works well, but a headlamp is even better because it leaves your hands free for picking. Bright white light drives night crawlers underground. Cover the lens of your flashlight with red cellophane or use a dim light. Walk softly: worms are very sensitive to vibration and will retreat if disturbed. When you spy a nightcrawler, grasp it quickly it by the head (the thicker end) with your fingers. Don't jerk the worm from the ground, use a firm, slow, steady pull or it will break and the worm becomes the winner as it has the capability to regenerate either end of its body. If the worm tries to shoot back into the hole, hold onto one end until the worm releases tension and is free of the hole.
If you want to keep a good supply of worms on hand, build a worm box. In a 2' x 3' x 2' box you can house 500 nightcrawlers. Resist the urge to over harvest. Besides wasting a natural resource, overcrowding will stress your bait, making them less appealing to the fish, if not cause a complete loss of what you collected. For bedding, fill the box with soil or damp shredded newspaper. Commercially available worm bedding, slightly dampened, makes a good soil substitute. If you do use soil, remember that moist and not wet is the key. Sink the box in a shady spot, leaving two inches of the box above ground. Damp and cool are the key words in keeping worms fresh. A cool storage area (40° - 60°:F) will allow you to keep your worms for an extended period. A wet burlap bag over some straw will work well. You might also try spreading out a few handfuls of ice cubes on the straw every two or three days. The ice will keep the bedding damp and cool. Ice cubes, incidentally, can be used when transporting and keeping worms on an extended fishing trip. Chlorine in water supplies can be a problem. De-chlorination is accomplished by allowing your next change of water to stand for 24 hours before introducing it to your bait. Some tackle shops will carry de- chlorination supplies.
Try the following method on your next trip: in the center of your bait box, which should measure about 12" x 12" x 8" if you're carrying 400 or so worms, clear a space in the bedding. Next, fill a glass jar or plastic container with ice cubes, screw the top back on and put it in a plastic bag. Place the container in the center of the box and push the bedding around it. The ice will keep the bedding cool and dampened it will stay that way until the cubes melt. In hot weather, worms will actually crowd around the container. The purpose of the plastic is to seal in condensation. Without the plastic, the soil could become too soggy for worms.
You can feed your nightcrawlers bits of cracker crumbs or cornmeal, if you wish to raise your own and always have them on hand.