As far as we know, fishing dates back at least 10,000 years to the Mesolithic period, with worms probably being used for bait about the same amount of time. Many people of course still love to fish today and worms are inevitably a part of the bait they use. Even if someone is trying to catch fish that are normally responsive only to flies, minnows, plugs, or poppers, many fishermen will take along a few worms just in case they are the only way they can string up a good catch.
Here is a quote concerning worms as bait from one of the most popular and beloved fishing books ever written, The Compleat Angler, by Izaak Walton, published back in 1653: “… and that one day especially, having angled a good part of the day with a minnow, and that in as hopeful a day, and as fit a water as could be wished for that purpose, without raising any one fish; I at last fell to it with the worm, and with that took fourteen in a very short space.”
Despite having years of experience, many fisherman still do not know the best way to bait a hook with a worm; and some think a larger hook with a heavy line will catch a lot of fish. But it has been shown that a smaller hook baited properly on a moderately light line actually works better for catching fish. Here is the proper way to bait your hook:
The clitellum is that thickish band of flesh located near the head of the worm (about a third of the way down); you should first stick your hook through this clitellum, then go to the head of the worm (or the tail) and hook him one time there also. Two hooked places are all that is needed for the worm to stay on your hook. Do not thread the hook through his entire body, because the worm will quickly die that way. When you use only two hooked places, the worm will stay alive much longer (for as much as an hour underwater) and will wiggle a long time to attract fish.
Now that you know the correct way to bait your hook, here are eight more facts and tips related to using worms as bait:
1. The best way to find nightcrawlers for your fishing ventures is to wait until it is dark and then use a flashlight with some type of plastic cover to dim the light. Compost piles, parks, also down in vegetation are the best places to look for nightcrawlers. When looking, remember that they like damp and warm earth.
2. If you have any catalpa trees in your area and are fishing for channel cat, you can use the catalpa worm (which is attracted to different parts of the tree) for bait. Once you have a few and are ready to fish, remember this little trick: Slice off the worm’s head and use a matchstick to poke all the way through his body until he is turned inside out. Channel cats cannot resist the odor from the inside part of the catalpa worm.
3. When you find enough worms, the best way to store them is by using a container filled with one third dirt and two thirds peat moss. Worms do not like direct sunlight, so do your best to keep them out of it. Even though worms do not have eyes, they can still “feel” the light and will try to crawl away.
4. African Nightcrawlers are large worms that have been extremely successful in the fishing industry, although they are more expensive to buy than red worms. Nightcrawlers satisfy fishermen’s cravings for BIG bait worms since most of them are a half foot long or more, although they have been known to reach lengths of up to 12 inches and greater if properly taken care of. But you really should not buy any nightcrawlers more than 6 or 7 inches long, since any larger than that will not give you the best results.
5. Red worms are still the most popular choice for bait due to their color and liveliness. They are also very tough and will wiggle for a long time on a hook. Red worms can reach lengths of 3 to 4 inches and greater if fed well. Botanists estimate red worms can live up to 10 to 15 years if they are kept in a well-protected environment. They also consume their weight in soil every 24 hours and then deposit the same amount of weight as ‘castings,’ which is a perfect plant food rich in nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, and phosphates.
6. Scientists have determined there are about 5,500 different named species of earthworms in the world.
7. In South Africa a 22 foot long worm was once found.
8. If a worm loses its tail, it can grow a new one; but not so if it loses its head.