For many fishermen, the common earthworm is the first bait we learn to fish with. Maybe your dad or grandpa took you out the first time and helped you bait your hook with a fresh, wriggly earthworm.
If you live near and mostly fish in freshwater, it’s probably never occurred to you to wonder if earthworms are good bait. But if you’re looking to start out fishing in saltwater, what do you use for bait? And can you use garden worms for sea fishing?
The answer isn’t cut and dry; like most fish, saltwater fish have preferred baits. I’ve written this article to explore exactly how useful earthworms are for saltwater fishing.
Credit: Today I Found Out
Depending on where you live, a garden worm can be one of a few different species, including lobworms, redworms, and nightcrawlers.
Garden worms can be dug up in your backyard, compost pile, or purchased from worm farmers. You can pick them up at convenience stores cheaply, or even order them online by the pound, like these nightcrawlers from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm.
Earthworms are an inexpensive bait, particularly when compared to other live baits commonly used in saltwater fishing, like shrimp, bait fish, or cut bait. It’s no surprise that fishermen are eager to use an inexpensive bait. I love being able to pick up worms at basically any gas station and head out fishing.
Fish are mostly attracted to bait for two reasons: smell and movement, and each fish has a preferred bait. Open ocean fish tend to feed on smaller fish or carrion, so if you’re looking to catch large sea fish, a wriggling worm is going to be less efficient than cut bait (cut up pieces of fish).
However, nightcrawlers and other earthworms can be used for smaller sea fish, like panfish, flounder, sea bass, school-sized stripers, and fluke. In fact, some larger species of earthworms do well in saltwater, as they tolerate near-freezing water.
Just remember, for little fish you’ll want to cut up your worm and thread onto the hook. Not sure how to bait your hook? Worm Gitter has a technique you’ll love.
If the fish aren’t biting, try swapping out your worm. Worms do better in freshwater, so you’ll have to change them more frequently in saltwater. A dead worm is not good bait. I change my worm out whenever it gets bloated and soggy, and of course, whenever I lose most of the bait.
Credit: Drowning Worms
Larger earthworms, like Canadian nightcrawlers or lobworms, work well for basically any fishing, since you can simply cut them in half if they’re too big. Some fishermen prefer smaller or more wriggly species, like redworms, since they tend to wriggle on your hook longer. More movement can mean more fish biting and less bait changing.
While you can use the earthworms you dig up from your backyard, fishermen prefer some more expensive types of worms, like bloodworms, for sea fishing.
While both are popular fishing baits, blood worms can grow up to 5 inches longer than earthworms, and they have teeth. Earthworms are better known for freshwater fishing, where they attract crappie, bass, catfish, and bluegill.
On the other hand, bloodworms are more popularly used in sea fishing because they attract spot, white perch, croaker, and striped bass. If you choose to use blood worms, remember that they tend to be more expensive–10 dollars per dozen–and that some saltwater fishermen prefer to use dead bloodworms, since the worms have sharp teeth and can bite.
Clam worms, like blood worms, are favored for sea fishing over earthworms. These are also known as ragworms or sandworms, and like blood worms, they are more expensive than the common earthworm.
Flounder, sea trout, blackfish, striped bass, porgy, whiting, croakers, rockfish, and surf perch are attracted to hooks baited with clam worms.
If you’d like to try a few other types of bait aside from worms to see how you fare, try using:
In general, figure out where you’re going to be fishing and what kind of fish you’d like to catch. The bait you’ll want to use will depend on which coast you’re fishing on, which fish are available there, and if you’re on the pier, in the surf, or on a boat.
Not sure how to bait your hook for saltwater fishing? How Cast will show you how to bait your hook with bait fish or with artificial grubs.
Earthworms are a great bait to have on hand, no matter if you’re fishing in freshwater or saltwater. While there are certainly other types of bait that are more attractive to the fish you want to catch, an earthworm is an inexpensive bait.
You can purchase earthworms by the pound from worm farmers like Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, or just dig them up from your backyard.
When choosing a bait for fishing, whether it’s saltwater or freshwater, think about the fish you want to catch, and what their preferred bait is. You’ll have better luck using baits the fish prefer, and you’ll have a better, more successful fishing trip!
If you have any questions on anything described above, feel free to ask in the comments!
Remember, when deciding which bait is best to use: