By Eric Brandriet
Summer months can produce some of the hottest walleye action of the year across the upper Midwest with countless angling opportunities. Tackle boxes are filled with a variety of favorite presentations but there is no doubt that nightcrawler harnesses and spinners account for walleye limits every day.
Summer brings a walleye diet transition and nightcrawlers trolled on spinners or livebait rigs become “go to” presentations. Their effectiveness, versatility and ease-of-use use make them a part of every walleye fishermen’s summertime arsenal. Yes, blade colors and variations are important. but the quality of nightcrawlers can have even more of an influence on effectiveness and fishing success.
Whether crawlers are hunted because of tradition, quality, or money savings, keeping a few tips in mind will ensure that your crawlers remain healthy and vibrant throughout the summer months.
Tips for Hunting and Maintaining Worms
- Spring and early summer (usually April-June) are the best times to gather crawlers before hot summer temperatures set in. Prime hunting spots are sparse grassy areas with black dirt. Wait a couple of hours after dark to ensure that their tails aren’t anchored allowing them to retract in the ground quickly. Step softly and use a shaded light to prevent spooking them.
- Once gathered, rinse the nightcrawlers with a simple strainer to remove dirt and other foreign material (grass/twigs). This will keep worm bedding fresh and the boat cleaner.
- Worm bedding needs to be mixed to a DAMP consistency – NOT wet or soaked. Use distilled water or rainwater; chlorinated water will lessen crawler longevity. It is often easiest to collect rainwater under a downspout since hunting activity occurs during the same rainy periods. When in doubt, Frabill makes Fat & Sassy bedding that is pre-mixed to the correct dampness and ready to use.
- Store nightcrawlers in a Styrofoam container – NOT a plastic container. The Frabill Habitat V is a large, sturdy, thick, foam container with integrated air vents allowing crawlers to breathe, retaining freshness and remaining odorless over the summer months. Overpacking crawlers in containers will decrease longevity, so multiple Habitat V containers when collecting large numbers of crawlers.
- Storing the Frabill Habitat V Worm Box in a cool area is necessary to maintain nightcrawler health. Choose either a cool basement or a refrigerator (35-65 degrees is preferred) to store crawlers between walleye outings. Having a ‘bait refrigerator’ is ideal so your crawlers and other livebait can be kept separate from human consumables.
- If you are not using the Frabill Super-Gro Worm Bedding which is a biodegradable, odorless and food-enriched bedding, add some Frabill Fat & Sassy Worm Food This will maintain healthy nightcrawlers for use throughout the summer.
- When taking crawlers in a boat, the Frabill Universal Bait Can is the best option. It is sturdy and tough with insulated dual compartments. This allows crawlers to be separated from ice, maintaining a cool – but not wet – environment during hot summer days. You might even want multiple cans positioned throughout the boat so anglers aren’t constantly moving around the boat for bait. This helps keep things organized and maintains safety. Watch this video to see how I set up my Frabill Can for a day on the water.
As a livebait fisherman, paying proper attention to livebait plays a vital role in determining summer walleye fishing success. We have all heard the adage, “Big bait means big fish.” Plump, healthy crawlers are preferred by large walleyes – without a doubt! These few tips and key products will produce “Fat & Sassy” crawlers all summer long which just may be your ticket to a trophy walleye!
Capt. Eric Brandriet is part owner/operator of Dakota Prairie Angling offering guided fishing trips on Lake Oahe and Northeastern South Dakota glacial lakes.