How To Keep Nightcrawlers

The whole idea of using live bait for fishing is to attract a fish with a wiggling live worm that is fresh and attractive as a food source for any fish you are chasing. Keeping Nightcrawlers fresh is key for successful fishing so the storage and how you treat the worms will determine their health for a period of time. What is the best way to keep Nightcrawlers?

  • Store Nightcrawlers in a styrofoam or Tupperware container with a lid
  • Add newspaper, grass,& weed clippings
  • Use layers of dirt above that for bed
  • Keep bedding moist & cool
  • Locate in a dark place
  • Feed Nightcrawlers commercial food-used coffee ground & kitchen scraps
  • Keep in temperatures at 58 to 68°F

Buying live bait like Nightcrawlers from the convenience store or at the Tackle shop can get expensive especially if you do a lot of fishing. Why not save your worms and keep them for another day or maybe for another season and keep them fresh and multiplying that can save you time and money. There are many methods that you can use to get Nightcrawlers out of your own backyard.


How to Attract Nightcrawlers


Nightcrawlers sense light and vibration but if you need nightcrawlers and the Bait shop is closed and ‘gone fishin’ or you can’t pay for them just do what every kid in America has done for  many years:

  • Wait for the Sun to go down
  • Hose down the front yard
  • Use a flashlight to spot them
  • When you see them don’t hold the light directly on the worm or the worm will take off back into the hole he came out of.
  • Brush the light over them to see his holes location
  • Before he gets down the hole again grab him
  • If you vertically pull it out of the hole the worm might break apart
  • Pull the Nightcrawler out of his hole slightly horizontally and you will be able to capture him with less trouble


How to Store Nightcrawlers


Nightcrawlers and Earthworms are similar in storing them. Hold them in a plastic bag, styrofoam, or for the best method a Tupperware container with a lid and keep them at cool temperatures. Make bedding of strips of cardboard, paper, or grass and weed clippings. Add layers of some fresh dirt where you found the worms. Close the container to retain moisture and place your worms in a dark area. Check on your stored worms every few days to make sure their bedding is moist. If needed, sprinkle or spray some water into the container to hydrate the worm bedding.

To make bedding simply use the soil that the worms were living in for the container. Keep the soil lightly moist and change the soil when you add more worms. Earthworms will stay healthy for a few weeks but after that, you need to feed them.

Nightcrawlers will stay healthy longer up to few months if they receive consistent cool temperatures in your fridge or cooler that will slow down the metabolism and after a couple of weeks, they also need to start a healthy diet.

Use a different container to bring the worms fishing with you. Once the sun hits the worm container it’s best if those worms are disposed of so get rid of the ones you take fishing with you. Take only what you need for the day from the cooled container. If you keep worms in a bigger box or container outside make small holes on the bottom for water drainage and make sure the box is well insulated for controlling hot and cold temperatures.

Check every couple of days for the health of your Nightcrawler and if you find dead worms on top of the substrate pick them out of the container removing them immediately. Nightcrawlers give off a gas when they die that is toxic to the other worms.  Nightcrawlers should be burrowing themselves up and down through the bedding. Check for any puddling of water you want an evenly moist content for the worms to live in


What Temperature To Keep Nightcrawlers


Nightcrawlers cannot live in extreme wet, hot, or cold temperatures. They thrive best in moist soil bedding that’s around 68 degrees °F. and can live 5-6 years in the wild. Most refrigerators run too cold for Nightcrawlers,  they run anywhere between 35-42°F  degrees so that would be a bit too cold to keep them.  If you want to save them for longer periods of time, Nightcrawlers should be kept in cool temperatures between 58°F – 68 °F.  They’ll stay alive and healthy for some time till you use them again. Mark your containers and rotate from the oldest to keep them the freshest worm for your fishing experience.


What to Feed Nightcrawlers


If you decide on keeping your worms longer than a few weeks you should feed them. Most worms like to live in composted old grass and weed clippings but an easy food source for you to feed them is coffee grounds that they have a liking for. Add a few tablespoons and shake the grounds inside the container this will also aerate the soil in the container keeping the soil loose and the moisture from puddling inside creating a healthy environment for the worms to live in.

Worms can eat half their weight in one day. Provide the worms with enough food to last them a few days. Double the combined weight of the worms, and place that amount of food in the worm box. That will last them about a week.

You can buy powdered worm food from a Bait Supply store or make your own worm food by blending fruit, veggie scraps, or eggshells.  To feed the worms,  Comercial powdered worm food, sprinkle a light layer of the worm food over the top layer of the worm container. Wait until all of the food has been eaten before feeding them again. You can also feed Nightcrawlers a mixture of ground corn, cornmeal, and oats.



How to Fatten Up Worms For Fishing


If you are keeping a larger amount of worms you can fatten them up with DIY worm food that will increase the size of the worm by feeding them a better diet. Worms don’t have teeth or stomach acid so that any waste you put in with worms for food can’t be used until it starts to decompose. Worms won’t eat until the bacteria break down the waste you add to their environment. The smaller the food source the easier it is for this process to happen.

Keep some old shredded newspaper or cardboard in a dark area. Then wet it down and the moisture will activate the process for the bacteria to break down any food that you add into the compost mixture giving the worms a bigger, better diet. Dark and moist environments are best for this. Smaller bits of food are easier for worms to eat and digest than chunks. So chop it up or use a blender for garbage waste from your kitchen into a thicker drier food source. 

Kitchen scraps like banana peels and bread will produce bigger Nightcrawlers and create castings from the worms that are high in nutrients which is good for them and if you want to keep more worms for breeding purposes the worms can also make great compost for your garden called Vermicompost.  More importantly, if you use these tips you’ll grow bigger, healthier and longer living Nightcrawlers to be used on the end of a fishing hook.


For great information on identifying and catching nightcrawlers check out my earlier article called How to Catch Nightcrawlers here on MyWaterEarth&Sky.



     JimGalloway Author/Editor








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