Where to Catch Nightcrawlers for Fishing Bait

Video where to find nightcrawlers

Nightcrawlers are common earthworms that are found around the world. Rather than overspend for live nightcrawlers at a fishing supply store, you figured you’d try catching your own. Where can you find nightcrawlers to use as fishing bait?

To catch nightcrawlers, seek out a crop field or a garden with tilled soil. You can even check your own backyard. In daylight or nighttime, dig a few inches deep into the soil and it should be wriggling with live worms. That will especially be the case after it rains.

This guide to catching nightcrawlers will be chock full of information that any aspiring angler should keep handy. You’ll learn where to find nightcrawlers, how to get them out of the ground in large quantities, and how to keep them alive so you can use them as live bait later. Keep reading!

Finding Nightcrawlers – Where to Look

The Lumbricus terrestris or common earthworm-which is also known as the nightcrawler-may have originated in Western Europe, but today, the worms are anywhere and everywhere across the United States.

That’s why anglers find the prospect of catching their own nightcrawlers so appealing, as they don’t have to expend a lot of effort to track down the worms. Here are some places you can go nightcrawler hunting today.

Your Backyard

Why not start with the most convenient place you could possibly find nightcrawlers, right in your backyard?

Nightcrawlers live in loam soil, which contains 20 percent clay, 40 percent silt, and 40 percent sand. Most soil in the US is categorized as loam, but only you know what kind of soil you have around your property.

If your soil is drier and sandier than 40 percent, then you probably won’t be able to find worms in your yard. Also-although it goes without saying-if your home features asphalt or rocks rather than a dedicated yard, then you’ll also have to venture elsewhere for your nightcrawler hunting.

Just don’t start digging in your neighbor’s yard, as they’re not going to appreciate that!

Crop Fields

If you can’t find nightcrawlers right outback, you can always seek local crop fields. A crop field is a large agricultural area that usually features tilled soil.

Another feature of crop fields is dead debris such as old leaves that nightcrawlers can conveniently feast on from the safety of the tilled soil.

However, if you don’t know who the crop field landowner is, you won’t want to hunt for nightcrawlers. You could get in possible legal trouble for entering someone else’s property and technically defacing it. Ask for permission first or find yet another place to dig for nightcrawlers.


Gardens are packed full of soil, and if that soil is loamy, then you already know nightcrawlers will be there.

As you work in your garden, you’ll want to dig strategically to avoid upsetting plants, flowers, and trees that are still growing. Try to replace the soil after making holes so your plants don’t tip over due to stability issues.


You can always find plenty of greenery at your local park. You know what we’re about to say, you can’t dig at a park without permission from the landowner or a parks and rec association at the very least.

That said, you can look under fallen trees or beneath rocks for nightcrawlers since you’re not damaging the soil. You don’t need permission for that.

Almost Anywhere After the Rain

If all the above methods sound like too much time and trouble, you don’t necessarily have to do any of it. You can always check the forecast for the next rainfall. Nightcrawlers come out in droves after the rain, especially if it rains during the evening.

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You won’t have to look hard for them, as they’ll be nearly anywhere and everywhere. Check the sidewalks, the surface of the lawn or soil, and rocks and trees. You’ll see plenty of worms.

Fun fact: if you live in an area where rains are rarer, you can always trick the nightcrawlers into thinking it’s raining if you wait until dusk and water your lawn.

We recommend bringing some sawdust when you’re catching worms after the rain. The already-slippery insects will become even harder to grasp thanks to the moisture of the precipitation. Using sawdust gives you a better grip on the nightcrawlers.

Plus, the rumor is that that the worms don’t like the texture of the sawdust so they’re more eager to pop out of their holes.

How to Get Nightcrawlers Out of the Ground

Once you’ve seen at least one nightcrawler wriggling about, you can assume that more are in the area. Here are some of the avenues you can use to begin catching nightcrawlers by the dozen.

A Shovel and Bucket

The most old-fashioned method is using a gardening shovel and a bucket. The shovel is for digging into the loamy soil.

As we established earlier, you shouldn’t have to make inches-deep holes to find nightcrawlers.

By removing the top layer of the soil, you should see the worms wriggling. Pull them from the ground (more on this in a later section, so definitely check it out!) and then store them in a plastic bucket.

If you don’t have a bucket, then any similar container should work. The key is to choose a container with tall sides so the worms can’t easily crawl up and over. The container should also ideally have a carrying handle for easy transport.

In the bucket, add a bit of soil and worm food such as dead leaves. This will keep your nightcrawler alive until you get home.


We already talked about this, but water is a very reliable way to get nightcrawlers to reveal themselves, especially if you’re struggling to find any worms.

Why do nightcrawlers like water so much? As worms, nightcrawlers usually stay under the soil where it’s dark and moist because there’s little risk of them drying out. They won’t poke their heads out in bright, sunny weather for that very reason.

When it rains, the worms can finally emerge from underneath the soil while staying nice and moist. The rain also accelerates a nightcrawler’s speed so it can cross greater distances.

As we mentioned earlier, watering your lawn at dusk means that by nightfall, the earthworms should be plentiful.

Worm Grunting

You can also try worm grunting, which is known as worm charming and worm fiddling. This activity is common among anglers who want to catch many nightcrawlers at once. It’s even a competitive activity!

First, you have to create vibrations in the soil. This will bring the worms nearer the surface. Then it’s a matter of catching the nightcrawlers.

Car Battery

If you don’t mind that your nightcrawlers are dead, then you can always electrocute them to the surface using a car battery.

This method is a little harsher than the ones we’ve discussed to this point, and if you do it, you should ensure that the landscape is clear of other living creatures (that you can perceive, anyway), especially those on or in the soil.

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You’ll need jumper cables, metal rods, and your car battery. Please wear rubber-soled shoes to ensure your safety as you go about catching nightcrawlers like this.

Take two of the metal rods and insert them several feet into the ground, no deeper than three feet. Then attach your jumper cables to your car battery with the rubber grippers. Connect the other end of the jumper cable grippers to the affixed metal rods.

As electricity generates, the nightcrawlers will immediately spring to the surface to get away from the volts. You can catch them easily from there.

More Tips for Catching Nightcrawlers

Want even more tips to make you a nightcrawler-catching master? No problem! Here’s what we recommend.

Bring a Flashlight for Nighttime Catches

Nighttime is prime time for catching nightcrawlers. After all, these common earthworms are known as nightcrawlers for a reason. At night, when it’s usually cool, the worms will emerge to the surface of the soil. Nighttime is also a period when fewer predators abound.

You’ll need a flashlight to spot nightcrawlers on the ground. You can have a friend or partner carry the flashlight or you can bring it yourself. You can even use your smartphone flashlight, although not if you’re planning to hunt for a while. That’s a great way to drain your phone’s battery!

Headlamps Are Your Friend

Outside of flashlights, it’s a good idea to bring a headlamp as well. After all, once you find the nightcrawlers, how are you supposed to dig them up? You can’t hold the flashlight in one hand and dig with the other hand. It just doesn’t work.

Use Red Light

Nightcrawlers are adept at sensing the light. As soon as you shine a bright spotlight on a nightcrawler-such as from a flashlight or a smartphone-the worm will retreat underground.

To a nightcrawler, light = sunlight, and sunlight = danger, either from predators, drying out, or both.

Nightcrawlers are smart too, in that the one that senses the light isn’t the only worm to hide. Any other worms in the vicinity that might have been poking their heads up will also duck back down. You lose out on a lot of potential catches.

Using red light is the best way to mask the brightness of your light while still illuminating the yard. You can either buy a flashlight or headlamp with a red light or you can tape a piece of red cellophane over the light. You can even put cellophane on a smartphone flashlight.

Tread Lightly

Besides being able to sense light, nightcrawlers can detect vibrations caused by sound as well. If you usually have a heavy gait, it’s worth practicing quieter walking if you hope to be successful in your nightcrawler hunts.

We’re not saying you have to tip-toe here, but you do want to be as light on your feet as possible. If you’re not, the worms will sense you before you ever get close and you won’t see any.

The only exception to this is when it’s raining. It could be that the worms sense the vibrations of the rain falling to such an extent that your footfalls don’t stand out among that sound, but worms don’t react to heavy footsteps as much in the rain.

Wear Light Shoes

Even if you’re stealthy like a ninja, it’s still not a bad idea to wear light shoes when you’re digging for nightcrawlers. Ditch the combat boots, Timberlands, and heavy shoes like them. Wear house slippers (that you don’t mind getting muddy) or shoes with very light soles.

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Skip the flip-flops though, as the flopping sound is not going to help you catch nightcrawlers.

Know When and How to Grab

As we said we would, we want to discuss is how to pull nightcrawlers out of the ground. To do so, you’ll have to get good at distinguishing the worm’s head from its rear. The head is what usually emerges first from the soil, which is a helpful hint.

The center of a nightcrawler’s body features a series of rings that allow the worm to have traction in the dirt. Then the other side of the worm is its tail.

When you see the nightcrawler emerge from its hole, grasp your hand around it and begin to pull up horizontally. Vertical pulling could cause you to tear the worm, and then it won’t be very good as fishing bait.

The body will be in the soil at an angle, so pull the nightcrawler at whatever angle it’s situated itself.

Remember to take your time when pulling and don’t use excessive force. Otherwise, you’ll kill the nightcrawler!

How to Keep Nightcrawlers Alive to Use as Live Fishing Bait

We’re assuming that you’re interested in keeping your nightcrawlers alive so you can eventually use them as fishing bait, right? Here’s how it’s done.

Move Your Nightcrawlers to a New Container

The container that will be the nightcrawler’s more permanent home should be full of loamy soil as well as worm food.

Dead debris like vegetables and grass as well as old coffee grounds (that are still moist) are recommended. The coffee grounds are easily ingestible for worms, so don’t be surprised if this is what they start with!

Refrigerate the Worms

Yes, that’s right, we’re telling you to put the nightcrawlers in the refrigerator. We know this sounds weird, but it’s part of maintaining the worms’ optimal temperature, which is between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep the Soil Moist

Time will cause the soil to dry out, so every couple of days, you might have to add more water. You should only spill in a few drops at a time.

Add More Food

The nightcrawlers will eventually eat everything you give them, even if that takes a bit. While you’re checking the soil moisture levels, consider adding more food like coffee grounds or old leaves as well.

However, if there’s still food in the container, don’t feed the nightcrawlers yet. You could accidentally feed them too much, and then they’ll die.

If you continue doing the above, you could keep your nightcrawlers alive for weeks. Plan that fishing trip soon!

Final Thoughts

Nightcrawlers are a species of common earthworm that are prevalent throughout the country. You need only look in your backyard for nightcrawlers, although they’re common in crop fields, parks, and gardens as well.

Rainfall remains your most natural way of bringing out the greatest number of nightcrawlers, but you could always shock them out of the ground using a car battery and some metal poles if you don’t mind that your worms are dead.

Now that you know how to find, catch, handle, and keep nightcrawlers, you should never have to shop for live worm bait again!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>