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As The Worm Turns

It’s An Ideal Live Fish Bait Almost Anywhere
By Mary Syrett

Orange-trout-worms2.jpgOrange Trout Worm

When God created the humble worm, He surely did so knowing full well that the creature was a blessed gift to anglers. Those among you who doubt that the worm is a divine creation, consider a profound yet sometimes forgotten truth: Worms are ideal live fish bait, in Arizona and most everywhere else in the world.

If you fish only a few times a year, you must surely have been in a situation where you spotted a big fish cruising the margins of a lake, pond or stream. What was the first thing you did? Fumble around in your tackle box searching for that forgotten “incredible” lure that Uncle Wally promised "will always bring the big ones in," or start digging around in the good earth with your fingernails while lifting up old logs or much older rocks?

Why do I ask? Because if there is one bait that will get that big one to bite, it's more than likely a worm. Cursing the fact that you forgot (again!) to bring any with you, chances are you’d sell your own grandmother for one big lobbie that’s not around when you really need it.

Many old-time Arizona anglers fish with live bait. Not only do such anglers choose live bait, but also they choose to use a particular kind more than any other. We’re talking W-O-R-M-S. There are different species of worms, but the point is, when it comes to live fishing bait, many anglers who have been around the block once, twice, or in my case, thrice, sooner or later think of worms.

Rightly so, seeing as how fish of all kinds enjoy devouring worms for breakfast, lunch or dinner. An angler would be hard pressed to find a fish that doesn’t appreciate a tasty worm dangling in front of it.

Types Of Fishing Worms

The dendrobeana are the most popular worms used by anglers. They are lively, wriggle like no other fishing worm (and by doing so, attract a variety of fish species), and can survive in cool waters for a long time.

Small dendrobeana worms are ideal for pond and small stream fishing. Medium-size ones attract carp, big bream, catfish, crappie and good-size perch. Bass of all types and sizes seem to be forever hungry for dendrobeanas. The best thing about this type of fishing worm is that they are easy to care for, provided they are kept in a good-size container that has air holes and moist bedding, and are kept out of direct sunlight. If properly attended to, dendrobeana worms can easily survive for two weeks.

Lobworms are the biggest fishing worms around and are often found in home gardens. When skillet-size fish are your target, lobbies, also known as nightcrawlers, are an ideal bait.

Wherever you find receding floodwaters, fish enthusiastically seek out this worm. Those fish include perch, carp, bream, bass and catfish. Red fishing worms are smaller than dendrobeana and make ideal bait for perch, carp and bream.

Acquiring And Keeping Worms

Live bait can be purchased at most bait shops or, better still, an angler can get out of the house and find his or her own. Compare the cost of losing one worm to losing one artificial lure, and you’ll quickly realize that fishing with live bait is far less expensive than fishing with lures.

Catching worms to use as fish bait isn’t difficult. Nightcrawlers thrive in warm, moist earth or other areas where compost is abundant. Nightcrawlers come out most often at night (surprise!) and can be located using a dim light source such as a flashlight with a plastic cover.

Look for nightcrawlers under vegetation, around compost piles and any place that is damp. When you locate one, grasp and pull upwards using gentle pressure until the worm is dislodged from its hole.

The best way to keep live worms alive is with compost or peat mixed with dirt. Using 1/3rd amount of dirt and 2/3rds-peat or compost mixture works fine in a 3 by 2 by 2-foot box. An angler can keep 500 nightcrawlers in a box that size. Cool and damp are the keys to keeping healthy worms healthy.

Ice cubes are a must when transporting worms on an extended Arizona fishing trip. Try this on your next outdoor adventure: In the center of a bait box, clear a space in the bedding.

Next, fill a glass jar with ice cubes, screw the top back on and put in a plastic bag. Then, place the container in the center of the box and push bedding soil around it. The ice will keep the soil cool and moist; it will stay that way until the cubes melt. In hot weather, worms will crowd around the jar.

Fishing With Worms

For some anglers, the technique used for fishing with worms never changes. Many grab a worm and thread it onto a large hook, or they hook a worm over and over, creating a worm ball. Many anglers have traditionally used such techniques when fishing with worms as bait.

And, because fish enjoy devouring tasty worms, the method certainly works well for catching some fish. But, do keep in mind: To present a worm in a completely natural way not only means more fish caught, but also means catching bigger fish that fit ever-so-nicely into a skillet.

How does one go about presenting a live worm in a natural manner? By using gang hooks, which are two small hooks tied in tandem. Gang hooks are the ideal way to present a live worm to fish. Because the hooks are smaller, they are less visible to fish, and because they are smaller, many fish are more tempted to bite.

If you use live fishing bait, especially worms, gang hooks should be a part of your fishing arsenal. Gone are the days of simply threading a worm onto a hook, or creating a worm ball. Using large hooks and threading a worm onto them is a fishing cliché.

When fishing with worms, place the hooks through the center of the large band located approximately 2/3rds the way up on a worm’s body. The band will appear as a ring of flesh separating the lower portion of the worm from the upper part.

You can, of course, use a bobber when fishing with worms, with the bobber placed 18 to 36 inches above the hook. Some anglers let out about 10 feet of line and then gently toss the hooked worm under a large tree overlooking the water, boat dock, or other shaded cover.

Another Wormy Consideration

Many anglers using worms as bait employ techniques similar to what they used when they were kids. For example, consider the act of carrying worms with you while fishing for bass, catfish, crappie or carp.

Many anglers buy a cheap cardboard container full of worms at a bait shop and then carry it with them for hours on end while fishing ever-so-hopefully for supper. This technique, while seemingly logical, is inefficient and can result in used-up, unsightly worm containers being left all along lakes, ponds and streams.

Today, an o-so-stylish worm bait bag that can be purchased in many sporting good stores can be used to carry live bait. An angler, just before starting to fish, simply removes worms from a cardboard container and places them in the bait bag.

Using this technique, fishing worms are literally at one’s fingertips all the time, thereby eliminating the need to carry throwaway containers. Have Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger given thought to designing a fashionably hip worm bait bag? Probably not, but there’s always the possibility.

Fool ‘Em, Fry ‘Em

When you hit an Arizona lake, stream or pond, do you want to fool fish time and again and then finish the day off with a delicious fish fry? Then make certain to bring along worms.

Many anglers, myself included, begin their fishing careers with these noodles of fish-attracting wonder. But, for some strange reason, many people move on and mature (whatever that means), and, before you know it, the miraculous, incredible worm is cast aside in favor of a mind-blowing array of plastics, flies, plugs, and whatever else is the "in" fishing thing today.

Can an angler catch more fish in a day using artificial fishing lures? Maybe. Maybe not. In many instances, where we’re inclined to cast fancy lures on the water, fish, when they are hungry, are really seeking delicious earthworms.

You may just find there is no better way to fill up a cooking skillet than fish that have been reeled in on a worm.

Mary Syrett is a freelance writer, photographer, cook and avid angler. Her e-mail is

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