Meagan has more than a decade of experience catching and raising worms for bait. Now she's sharing her best advice with you.
How to Catch Tons of Nightcrawlers (Earthworms)
Whether you're a fishing enthusiast looking to save on bait, an entrepreneur planning to sell worms for profit, or simply a lonely soul hoping to coax nightcrawlers out of the ground for their good company, there are a number of ways you can get earthworms to come to the surface.
In this article, we explore the top six methods you can use to find and catch worms. Each of these methods is discussed in greater detail in the sections below. Keep in mind that worm-catching is only likely to be successful if there are plenty of worms where you are searching. If you're not catching any, move to a different area and try again.
6 Ways to Get Earthworms to Come to the Surface
- Electrocute Them With a Car Battery
- Grunt for Them With Wood and Metal
- Coax Them Out of the Ground With Water
- Soap Them Out of the Ground
- Irritate Them Out of the Ground With Mustard Powder
- Catch Them Under Wood or Cardboard
1. Electrocute Them With a Car Battery
Apparently, worms hate being electrocuted as much as any living thing, which is why this method really does work.
- Car battery
- Two long metal rods
- Jumper cables
- Rubber-soled boots
- Pound the metal rods 2–3 feet into the ground.
- Using the rubber grips on the jumper cables, attach them to the car battery.
- Using the rubber grips on the other end of the jumper cables, attach them to the metal rods in the ground.
- The worms should come up to get away from the electricity underground.
- Once you notice a decline in worms coming to the surface, move to a different area and repeat until you have as many worms as you need. See the video below for more information.
2. Grunt for Them With Wood and Metal
It may sound silly, but grunting for worms is a serious business in some parts of the world, and there are even competitions dedicated solely to the craft of worm grunting. While you may not be a grunting champion right away, you should be able to get a few worms to pop out of the ground, and you'll likely improve with practice and experimentation.
People fashion all sorts of tools for worm grunting, and everyone has their own preference. The basic idea behind grunting is to rub a flat piece of metal across the top surface of a longer piece of wood that's been hammered into the ground. Experiment with materials and sizes, and see what gives you the best results. See the video below for more information.
3. Coax Them Out With Water
Worms have sensors that allow them to feel vibrations. They know when predators are close by, and they know when it's raining. Earthworms love to come out of the ground after the rain because they don't have to worry about drying out, and they can move about much easier when it's wet.
Just before dark, water your entire lawn (or the area of ground you are searching) long enough to soak it. Once it gets dark, you should be able to tiptoe around and catch nightcrawlers by the dozens. However, they may not come out of the ground entirely, and they are likely to retreat back into their holes if you don't tread lightly.
4. Soap Them Out of the Ground
If you have a bucket, liquid soap, and water, you have everything you need to collect tons of worms.
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- Plastic bucket
- Dish soap
- Mix the soap and water in the bucket (make sure to use an environmentally safe soap).
- Pour the mixture over the ground.
- Within seconds, you should see worms coming out of the ground.
- Repeat this procedure in different areas until you have what you need. See the video below for more information.
Important Things to Keep in Mind
- The soap will make it hard for the worms to breathe, so rinse them off immediately after you collect them.
- Worms will continue to avoid an affected area for a while due to the soap residue, so don't overdo it.
- If you do this on your own lawn, you may want to try a small test area first to make sure the soap mixture doesn't kill or damage your grass.
5. Irritate Them Out of the Ground With Mustard Powder
Mustard is not something most people would associate with worms, but this method really does work. The mustard water irritates them, and they head to the surface to escape it.
- Watering can
- Dry mustard powder
- Mix the water and the dry mustard powder in the watering can.
- Sprinkle the mixture on an area of the ground.
- You should immediately begin to notice worms heading up to the ground and running for unspoiled soil.
- Rinse them off before you store them to keep them healthy.
6. Catch Them Under Wood or Cardboard
This is not an ideal option for people who fancy a nice lawn since it can kill your grass, but if you have a wooded area that you don't really care about, this could work for you. Lay down a bunch of boards or pieces of cardboard, and let the worms come to you. Every couple of days, go out and lift up the boards. You should find quite a few worms hiding under them.
Questions & Answers
Question: What mustard to water ratio should I use to catch nightcrawlers from the ground?
Answer: Truthfully, I wish I could give you a perfect recipe but it’s more of a trial-and-error thing. I’ve tried it several times and have gotten varied results. I’ve seen it work with very little or a lot of mustard and I’ve also seen it not work at all.
I think it’s more about where you do it, and what the worm population is in that spot.
Worms are quite sensitive so you probably don’t need a ton to make it work, but you need enough of the mustard to effect them enough to stimulate them out of the ground.
I’ve also found that it’s pointless to try it more than once in the same spot without giving it quite a lot of time in between. Interestingly, I have observed that the areas where I’ve tried the soap and mustard methods do not have as much natural activity at night when I go out after it rains. I don’t know if that means the worms avoid that area afterwards for a while or not, but it was an interesting observation.
© 2018 Meagan Ireland
Meagan Ireland (author) from Maine on June 14, 2020:
Perhaps try saturating the ground a bit more? The worms are there ... it's weird none came up, but maybe you didn't use enough soapy water? I'm sorry! It can be fun watching them all shoot out of the ground.
Josh on June 10, 2020:
I use the soapy water method I've used it all over my yard in different spots and I haven't had one worm come out of the ground but yesterday when it rained we caught just tons what am I doing wrong
Meagan Ireland (author) from Maine on April 18, 2020:
Let me know which one and how it worked for you!
Kirsten on April 18, 2020:
I love this I'm gonna try one rht now
Peter on August 13, 2019:
# 6 is best
CapCarl on June 24, 2019:
Golf greens after the watering has stop.
Ken krieglmeier on May 02, 2019:
The best article im going to try it right now
Meagan Ireland (author) from Maine on April 14, 2018:
I enjoy it a lot! I've taken my kids since they were old enough to walk, and before that they sat in the stroller with a tiny pole! They love it! A fun way to spend time as a family.
Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 14, 2018:
An interesting article, Meagan. I never used any of those methods, but on the golf course where I used to pick we got so many nightcrawlers. Do you like to fish?