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In the summer months, worms are a hugely popular source of bait. When winter rolls around and people start ice fishing, they suddenly drop off the scene.
Talk turns to mealworms and waxworms, while earthworms barely get a mention.
So you might be wondering why worms that are so popular in summer seem unpopular when it comes to ice fishing.
Is it just that they’re not suitable, or is there more to it? Is it still worth trying to bait with earthworms, or should you try something new?
Can you ice fish with worms?
Earthworms may not be the best live bait for ice fishing, but they can still be used. If you already have worms for bait, then they can definitely be used for ice fishing as well.
The primary reason earthworms are less popular for ice fishing is their availability.
Earthworms can be used for many kinds of fishing, and to catch many kinds of fish. They’re a very appealing bait to fish, especially when fresh and wiggly.
When purchasing earthworms you’ll probably see them for sale under two different names: “wigglers”, and “nightcrawlers”. Don’t worry about getting caught up in the terminology.
Both are good, and both get the job done. From big, heavy catfish to lighter perch, an earthworm is a versatile piece of bait.
Do worms work for ice fishing?
Although they aren’t ideal, worms do work for ice fishing. The most important thing is keeping them alive.
Fish are primarily attracted to smell and movement, which is why a wriggly, living worm will catch more than a limp, dead worm.
To keep the worms alive they should be kept warm. The conditions for ice fishing are, by design, very cold. Keep your bait insulated by keeping the can in your jacket, in an isolated fishing bag, or in your car.
Earthworms are bigger, so harder to store and keep warm.
The primary reason you don’t see worms for ice fishing is the same reason you should keep them tucked in your jacket: worms don’t like the cold.
During the winter months worms die off, and are less likely to come to the surface.
Nightcrawlers, as the name suggests, come out at night, which is especially difficult in the cold. Freezing conditions keep worms underground.
Earthworms are larger, and need to be cut up before being hooked. While this is easy in the summer, in freezing conditions this is a difficult an unappealing task.
This is another reason many anglers prefer other types of bait for ice fishing.
What can you catch ice fishing with worms?
The majority of fish are not very picky eaters. Too many, earthworms are an incredibly appealing form of bait.
The fish you’re most likely to catch using earthworms are: trout, catfish, crappie, yellow perch, bluegill, and walleye. The fish less likely to bite are lake trout, largemouth bass, and pike.
There’s no saying those things won’t bite, but there are better ways of catching them than wasting your time with worms.
Best live bait options for ice fishing
The best live bait options for ice fishing are waxworms and mealworms. These are both larval forms, so are smaller, and several may be needed on the hook.
Both are reasonably suited to the cold, although they should still be kept insulated until use. Due to their smaller size, it’s much easier to keep them warm in a pouch.
Both waxworms and mealworms are easier to find in the cold months than earthworms. They also appeal to a wide range of fish. Even if you normally use earthworms, these two are worth consideration.
Why you should use worms for ice fishing
They might be harder to find and harder to keep appealing, but worms still make a great option for ice fishing. Why? Because they’re rarer, so yours will stand out.
When faced with nothing but waxworms, a fish may be drawn to the novelty of your nice, fresh worm. Especially, if it’s got used to feasting on earthworms during the summer months.
Of course, worms don’t guarantee a good catch, and there are issues to using them. However, if you have access to worms, it’s worth giving them a chance.
Why you shouldn’t use worms for ice fishing
Worms are harder to come by in the winter. If you do find some for sale, they’re more likely to be expensive. Plus, they need to be kept warm to stay alive, which is especially hard to do if you’re moving around.
As worms are bigger, they’re harder to fit in small pouches to keep insulated.
The large size also mean they need to be cut up, sometimes into thirds. This is very unappealing in low temperatures, and difficult to do. Waxworms are an easier option.