NightCrawler Secrets for New & Learning Fishermen
Chapter 4: Principle #2: Conditioned Super-Crawlers; Keep a Supply at Home
If you are comfortable buying your bait in small quantities, you can skip these next few chapters.
If you want to store your supply of nightcrawlers at home, don’t get the crawlers first, then scramble around for a place to keep them. Preparing their home takes time. Here’s what you need:
1) cheap plastic gloves; oversized, un-powdered, disposable, vinyl
2) a basement or garage refrigerator
3) two to four 6” x 15”x 15” Styrofoam tropical fish shipping boxes (or Magic Worm Ranches)
4) a cheap refrigerator thermometer
5) worm bedding
6) un-chlorinated water
7) worm food
8) burlap or newspaper, cut to about the size of your storage containers
Our first rule for handling nightcrawlers is “manage their aroma”. Nightcrawlers should always smell like nightcrawlers. Fish have an unbelievably well developed ability to detect scent. Some fish, like salmon, can smell water from their home stream from miles away, using traces as faint as one part per million to navigate to the stream where they were hatched. Although not all fish are this sensitive, the last thing you want is bait that smells like a human, or bait that smells like whatever a human has handled last. This is one of those key details that you don’t want to miss.
Find some powder-free disposable vinyl gloves on the Internet, and equip your bait storage area (and your boat) with them. A box of 100 will cost around $10 on Amazon.com, as little as $3 from other Internet suppliers. Make sure you get a size larger than you need; struggling into them like OJ in the courtroom is pure nuisance.
You want to use a glove every time you handle your crawlers, their bedding, food, everything that contacts them.
Refrigerator space comes next, and it’s important to get it in place before you acquire a large number of crawlers. I killed my first box of 500, by trying to keep them in their shipping container while I fixed up my refrigerator storage. Took me two weeks to get things ready, and even though I kept the shipment in my wife’s basement refrigerator for that time (yes, she did mention it a time or two), when I was ready to unpack them, it was too late.
Your long-term storage containers want to be about 6” x 15” x 20”, made of Styrofoam, either with thin walls or with vent holes; so excess moisture is able to escape. The boxes used to ship tropical fish are perfect, and if you can find a store that throws them away, they are also free. The Magic Products Company makes containers called Magic Worm Ranches, and they are about perfect as well, but they cost around $20 each (with bedding and food included).
A box big enough for safe long term storage of 250 crawlers will occupy most of a shelf, so if you’re keeping 500 we’re talking 2 shelves of your refrigerator. I had to shim up the middle shelf of my refrigerator to allow my Worm Ranches to fit on the second and third shelves (the top shelf is for beer, of course).
You’ll need to keep your crawlers between 40o and 50oF. This will probably require setting your refrigerator close to its maximum cool setting. It will also require using a thermometer to verify that you’re in the right temperature range. I find that my refrigerator, set at cold level 6 (of 7), and loaded with 2 full Magic Worm Ranches, holds 42 o on the top shelf, 45 o on the middle shelf, and 48 o on the bottom shelf.
The choice of bedding is important, of course. You don’t want to use dirt, even good topsoil, because it makes such a mess in your refrigerator, your garage, your boat, everyplace you pull crawlers from it. Chopped newspaper is a cleaner alternative, but has poor ability to retain and evenly distribute moisture. Moss is best; it is cleaner, lighter and easier to handle, has better moisture retention capability, and takes better care of your crawlers.
I use Sphagnum Moss, available from Magic Products under the name Magic Worm Bedding. You want 4 inches of bedding (a couple pounds) in the bottom of your containers, so you buy at least the 1 ½ pound bags (under $3), or perhaps the 4 ½ pound bag (around $7).
Always use un-chlorinated water. If you live on a community water system, buy bottled spring water for your nightcrawlers. Chlorine turns water into a weak acid, and reduces the robustness and life expectancy of your bait.
The manufacturer recommends one quart of water in a pound of bedding to support 100 nightcrawlers. I mix mine in a 5 gallon plastic bucket, using a garden trowel to stir. The mixing process is vigorous enough to damage a Styrofoam container. After you mix your bedding, squeeze a handful as hard as you can. If more than a couple of drops of water comes out, add dry bedding.
When your boxes are loaded with mixed bedding, wet a layer of burlap or newsprint and lay it on the top of the bedding. It helps to keep the moisture in the bedding. I like the way burlap holds water, better than paper. Burlap is easily available at your nearst fabric store.
Don’t add crawlers immediately after mixing. The freshly mixed bedding will be too warm. Cool the boxes of bedding for at least 48 hours before adding any crawlers.
You are now equipped for long term nightcrawler storage.