How to Catch Nightcrawlers in Your Own Backyard

Updated on April 16, 2020
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A freelance writer with over fifteen years of experience, Meagan loves learning about new things and sharing that information with others.

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While fishing is a wonderful way to spend a day outdoors, it can become an expensive hobby. Experienced anglers know that having the right pole, line and bait is important if you want to catch a certain fish.

For those who are just starting — or aren’t too worried about what they catch — a simple pole and bait will work just fine. All fish love a juicy worm and you can find this free bait right in your own backyard.

Where Can I Find Nightcrawlers

Nightcrawlers can be found anytime during the day by digging in the ground or using one of these other methods. Gardens and crop fields are a great place to dig for worms because the soils tilled and the worms feed on the dead leaves left behind from various crops. Always ask for permission before digging on land that’s not owned by yourself or a family member.

If you’d rather not get your hands dirty digging, you can look under rocks, fallen trees, dead leaves and debris. The forest provides many opportunities to look for worms without digging in the ground. If you go into the woods, be sure to protect yourself from ticks and wear orange during hunting season.

Perhaps the best way to catch a lot of worms at once — with minimum effort — is to wait for a rainy evening. If you know it will not rain for a while, or you need worms soon, you can trick the nightcrawlers by watering your lawn at dusk.

Nightcrawlers come running out of the ground when it rains and you’ll have no problem catching a bunch if you follow the steps below.

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What You Will Need to Catch Nightcrawlers

While you really only need yourself and worms, the following items will make it easier to catch nightcrawlers:

  • Bucket or small container
  • Sawdust
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Red light or red cellophane
  • Quiet shoes
  • A container with dirt and food

Although rain brings worms out of the ground, it also makes them harder to catch. Worms are slippery and quick on a normal day, and rain magnifies this. The sawdust will help you get a better grip on the worm.

Some older anglers swear that because worms dislike the gritty feeling of sawdust, they release out of their holes easier. That may or may not be true, but a little sawdust will help you get a better grip on the slippery worm.

Worms sense sound vibrations and light. Wearing bulky shoes or boots will make your footsteps more noticeable to the worms and they will retreat into their holes. Soft-sole shoes or slippers work best when hunting for worms. Although, they seem less sensitive to footfalls while it’s raining. Perhaps because they cannot distinguish between raindrops and footsteps.

Bright flashlights will hinder your search because as soon as you shine the light on the worm it will sense it and zip back into the ground. Any nearby worms will follow. A dull or faint light will work better, but the best thing to use is a red light.

Worms don’t have eyes but can see with their skin. They have light receptors that help them sense light — because some types of light can dry out their skin and kill them — but they don’t seem to detect red light as easily.

If you cannot find a red LED flashlight or headlamp, you can make your own by putting red cellophane over a normal flashing or headlamp.


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How to Catch a Lot of Nightcrawlers Quickly

Once you have all of your supplies and you know the worms are out, you’re ready to start catching some free bait.

Quick Guide to Catching Nightcrawlers

  • Walk quietly
  • Look for worms in dark areas with short grass
  • Try to grab the worm as close to the hole as you can
  • Pull the worm out at the angle it came out of the ground
  • Don't grab the worm hard or yank it quickly
  • Gently pull the worm horizontally along the ground until it has released from the hole

Where Should I Look for Nightcrawlers?

For the most part, worms stay in the ground. It’s not uncommon to find worms along roads or sidewalks when it’s raining, but they are more commonly found with their back half still nestled into their hole. Even when they mate, they keep their tail end in the dirt. This helps them disconnect from the other worm when they are finished mating. You'll want to look for worms in an area where the grass is not too high and there are no bright lights.

How Can I Catch Worms Without Them Going Back Into the Ground?

One thing you will notice quickly is how fast the worms go back into the ground when spooked. It won’t take long to determine what works and what alerts the worms. Some people find it easier to crouch down low to the ground and shine the light horizontally to watch for movement while others walk along looking for the shimmer of the worms skin in the grass.

How Do I Grab Nightcrawlers Quickly?

Worms come out of the ground head first and leave their tail end in the ground so they can pull themselves back in quickly when threatened. They have bristle like rings along their bodies that help them grip the dirt, so they don't come out of the ground easily. Identify the worm’s head and then follow its body back to where it goes into the ground. That’s where you want to grab your worm.

What's the Best Way to Get the Nightcrawlers out of the Ground?

Once you have hold of the worm, pull it horizontally out of its hole. If you try to pull it straight up, you may break the worm. Worms don’t usually come straight out of the ground and typically come out at an angle. That’s the angle you’ll want to follow when pulling it out of the ground.

You don’t need to grab the worm hard — especially if you’re using saw dust. If you grab it too hard you may harm it and it may die. You don’t need to yank it out quickly. That might break the worm and alert the surrounding worms.

Once you catch a few worms, you’ll quickly understand the best method for collecting the rest. Don’t get frustrated or discouraged if you miss a worm or it was too quick. If you start to pull a worm out, and it won’t come out easy, let it go. You can always catch it another day. You want healthy worms if you plan to keep them for a while.

Have Fun Catching Worms

Finding worms to fish with can be just as much fun as fishing. Wandering quietly along your lawn in the evening is a perfect way to meditate on other thoughts you might not have had time to think about before. Trying to outsmart the worms before they suck quickly back into the ground can become like a game of sorts.

If anything, it’s a great way to spend some quiet time alone. Have fun and remember how much money you’re saving on bait.

© 2020 Meagan Ireland

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