Into The Outdoors 5/20/14

Most of us like to use a variety of baits and lures when pursuing the various residents of our lakes, rivers and streams.  We all usually have a personal favorite, though.  For me, it’s the nightcrawler.  I know I’ve written about them in the past, but, considering the rainy weather that we’ve had in the last few days or so,  it might be a good idea to look at them again.  As we all know, rainy nights are good nights for those who are able to catch these critters.  Now that the weather has finally broken, warm, rainy nights are more common.  It’s been my experience that, if there’s a fish around, and it’s hungry at all, it will go for a fat, juicy worm.   Over the years, I’ve caught trout, panfish, bass, catfish, carp, suckers and even a northern pike or two with them.
It sort of puzzles me why some folks look down on nightcrawlers.  When you think about it, most of us around here got our start with a can of worms.  An interesting aside is that nightcrawlers are, in addition to being a great bait, very beneficial to the soil, aerating and fertilizing it.
Catching a batch of crawlers is really a pretty simple process.  On a rainy night, get a container and flashlight and head for the yard.  Some people like to use a red covering over the light.  I find it hard to see the crawlers with one of these, and I’ve done just fine without it.  You must remember to walk softly, as the critters are very sensitive to vibrations in the ground.  
Once you catch a batch of crawlers, you have to take the proper steps to keep them alive and fresh.  Personally, I always use commercial worm bedding to store mine.  The same holds true for a container.  The store bought ones are made especially for this purpose, and they do a good job.  Just follow the directions carefully.  
It’s necessary to feed your worms from time to time.  Commercial worm food is available, but plain old cornmeal will work just fine, too.  Place it in straight lines on top of the bedding.
Crawlers must be stored in a cool place, like a basement or refrigerator.  Also, the bedding must be checked frequently to keep it from drying out.  If you neglect these precautions, you’ll get a horrible surprise when you lift the lid of the container.  The horrific stench of dead nightcrawlers is in a class all by itself.  To make matters worse, you’ll be without bait.  Along the same lines, be very careful about leaving nightcrawlers in your car.  They’ll die and rot in an amazingly short time, and the smell will linger in the car for a very long time.  
There are lots of ways to fish with nightcrawlers.  They can be fished alone, or used as a trailer on jigs or other lures.  Sometimes, it’s a good idea to inject a crawler with a bit of air to keep it slightly off the bottom.  I like to hook them twice, right near the front.  This way, they stay on the hook better.  A little fish attractant scent on them often entices fish to action.  When fishing in situations in which small baits are required, pieces of nightcrawlers will work just fine. 
Nightcrawlers are both beneficial to the soil and wonderful fishing bait.  They are plentiful and, if you catch your own, free.  Even when you buy them, which I very often do nowadays, the prices are seldom high.  Give the lowly crawler a try.  Or, more likely, give this time proven fish getter another chance.  I think you’ll be glad you did.  
When you come right down to it, I almost never catch my own crawlers anymore.  The fact of the matter is that my old bones just won’t take it anymore.  If I were to stay bent over for too long these days, it would probably take a crew of EMTs to straighten me back up.  Whether you buy ‘em or catch ‘em yourself, crawlers are a premier bait.
On another front, in a recent news release, the Game Commission cautions against handling young wildlife.  It’s a bad idea for a number of reasons.  Baby animals that have been handled by humans will often be rejected by their mothers.  Further, some animal mothers react badly when their young are disturbed.  Worst of all, you could get bitten, leading to the possibility of contracting a number of diseases, especially rabies.  Just look at the cute little critters and leave them alone.

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