It’s time to put night crawlers out of business and use rubber worms

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
-A +A

I’ve put off publishing any findings until I concluded numerous years of research. Now, the findings are in, and I recently presented a lecture to a fishing group with the conclusions of my research.

If it were up to me, I would put night crawler breeders and distributors out of business.

During an average year, I probably go through no fewer than 50 containers of night crawlers. Considering there are like a dozen worms in every container, that amounts to a lot of worms. Do all those worms find their way onto a hook? Of course not.

What to do with leftover crawlers? You can stick them in the refrigerator, hopefully with the lid on tight. If not, you’ll probably hear a mad screech as the fridge door is opened and mama sees night crawlers looking for a hiding place.

Better feed them occasionally, too. They enjoy a bite now and then to stay healthy and plump.

When you haul them on a fishing trip, if too much ice in the chest melts, your night crawler container is under water. Take the lid off the container and you’re confronted with a muddy mass.

In the boat, especially trolling, you want a nice, plump crawler for the hook, but the whole worm is much too long. You can multiple-hook the crawler, but when you start trolling, all you’re pulling around is a big glob of meat. You might catch a fish now and then, but it’s not an attractive presentation to the fish.

So, you need to pinch off part of the crawler, keeping the “tail” portion for the hook. I’ve never had any luck fishing with the “head” portion so overboard it goes. When you pinch off what you need, the area under your fingernails becomes grungy, and it takes days to wear off.

Ever been happily trolling around and somebody inadvertently bumps the night crawler container? It bounces on the floor of the boat, and the lid and container go in different directions. The dirt and all the crawlers are now all over the bottom of the boat.

Over many years of fishing, I’ve encountered just about every scenario you can imagine with a crawler, and I’ve concluded using a live night crawler just ain’t worth it.

There is a viable alternative, to which my hunting partner — Brian Richter of Pilot Hill — who fishes at Lake Almanor with us a couple of weeks a year, had a reaction I anticipated:

“Yeah, right, George. Sure!”

He didn’t believe me until I proved it last year.

The greatest thing invented was originally made for black bass fishermen — rubber worms. But guess what? They also work great for trout.

If you look over the wall of worm packages at any sporting goods outlet, you’ll be confronted with virtually hundreds of colors, sizes and styles. Many of those rubber worms look just like a real night crawler. I use numerous varieties made by Berkely.

But one thing you must keep in mind about fish: Contrary to popular belief, they are not rocket scientists. Fish don’t have the ability to think. When they see something that looks like food and they aren’t spooked, they’ll bite on it.

You use a rubber worm like you would a live crawler. You pinch off the “head” portion and use a worm threader to thread the “tail” portion onto the hook with enough tail hanging off the bend of the hook so it has some wiggle action.

I used my first rubber worm trolling for trout at Lake Camanche a good 10 years ago. I caught as many as four trout on the same rubber worm. I’ve used them successfully trolling Lassen County’s Eagle Lake for rainbows. I used nothing but rubber worms last year at Lake Almanor — with four rods in the water at a time — and we hammered trout, catching no fewer than 400-500 for the year, most of which were 2½- to five-pounders.

My hunting partner ran out of live crawlers, and instead of going to town to buy more, I handed him some rubber worms. He and his wife were skeptical, but he gave it a try. They hammered fish, and Brian Richter is now a believer. He also said he won’t purchase live crawlers again.

While they can be used successfully trolling, they can also be used in smaller pieces drifting streams, still fishing as you would a live crawler, or cast-retrieving from shore.

Live crawlers are expensive and difficult to keep between fishing trips. Switch to rubber worms and give them a try. Believe me, you’ll never again buy a carton of live crawlers.

Current fishing

Lake Pardee: They continue to plant trout weekly and try to do it close to or on the weekend, when the greatest amount of traffic is at the lake. That means some of the best rod-bending action will be when the truck comes, from around the launch ramp, the cove near the ramp and rainbow point. Trollers are hitting the mouth of the river and fishing as far up as Columbia Gulch. There have been good catches of rainbows and brown trout and even some early kokanee.

Sacramento River: Stripers are beginning to show in bigger numbers in the main body. With the lack of storms, the river is in good shape. Anchor closer to shore, where the water temperature will be a couple degrees warmer and more to the stripers’ liking. You’ll need to fight off the undersized bait stealers, but there are keepers in the mix. Those who can get into the Port of Sacramento and the upper part of the Deep Water Channel are finding stripers there, trolling, jigging and drifting big minnows. Mostly small fish, but it’s the time of year when lunkers are cruising in there, too.

Folsom Lake: The good thing right now is you don’t have to contend with many water recreationists, which will be prevalent soon enough. The not-so-good thing is you have to cover considerable ground and put in considerable time to put fish in the box, whether it’s bass, trout or salmon. You can pretty much have the waterway to yourself, but everything is lethargic and slow to bite.

Contact George deVilbiss at