It all starts with a hook and a worm

It’s time for me to get back to fishing basics, and by basics, I mean a simple hook and a worm.

I’ve read a lot about fishing with worms and I still wonder about the guy who first stuck a worm on a hook and caught a fish.

Maybe it was one of my ancestors who sat on a log next to a primeval lake and discovered a worm crawling up his leg. Not wanting a slimy worm to crawl up under his mammoth skin tunic he flicked the worm into the lake.

Imagine his surprise when a big toothy fish inhaled the worm. Luckily the inhaler was a fish and not a giant lizard or my family tree might have ended right there.

Evidently the DNA persisted in the Harding clan and I still am not fond of worms in my shorts, but I sure do use them to catch fish.

Walleyes and bass are always suckers for a juicy nightcrawler, as are catfish. Bluegills love worms, but they have small mouths and I’ve found that garden worms, red worms, and yes, manure worms are the key to tasty bluegill fillets. But I’ll concentrate on nightcrawlers this week and leave bluegills to a later column.

The first thing I learned about nightcrawler fishing is the importance of presentation. In my early angling years my presentation consisted of threading a gob of worms on the hook and using a heavy sinker to help me cast out what I hoped would fool a fish. I don’t think any fish were fooled although the depth bomb of that heavy rig might have frightened a fish to bite out of self defense.

Then, somewhere around my 11th birthday I received a flyrod and my approach to fishing changed. That metal flyrod was heavy and unwieldy for a kid my size, but I could use its 9 feet of length to lob my worm to a fish’s lair without additional weight.

When the water was clear I could see how the weightless worm wiggled naturally as it sank. That was when I first realized how important presentation was, and my fishing improved.

Today I still strive for a good presentation, but sometimes my quarry demands more incentive so I might add a bit of flash to my presentation. The flash is often achieved by using a nightcrawler harness.

And yes I’ve heard all the jokes about harnessing a nightcrawler; usually from my wife, Barb, but the harness is really just a hook with a couple spinner blades and colored beads strung on a section of monofilament line.

Supposedly the fish is attracted by the flash and vibration of the harness and then realizes that there is a delicious looking nightcrawler on the end. These rigs work well for walleyes, or about any other fish that will eat a nightcrawler, and that’s about anything that swims in Morning Journal Country.

Another way to present a nightcrawler is to use an Erie Dearie and I had a lot luck using them on Atwood Lake. The development of this special lure is a story of its own. Maybe I’ll write about it someday, but there already is a lot online about Capt. Dan Galbincea’s famous Lake Erie lure.

I tried an Erie Dearie on Lake Tomahawk last week, but even though I had a few hits nothing got hooked. I think the fish that did hit were just grabbing the nightcrawler and I made a hefty dent in my nightcrawler supply without landing a fish.

I’m not giving up on finding the perfect combination of a nightcrawler on a weight forward Erie Dearie, so I’ll keep on fishing with them and log those hours on the lake as research. Fishing research can be a lot of fun.

Now that summer is officially here I will spend a lot of time trying to unravel a few secrets of catching fish, and you can be sure that be sure that nightcrawlers will play a big part.

Fortunately I have a good supply of the slimy critters in my fridge. Don’t panic as this is my special fridge in my workshop and not where we keep our leftover spaghetti.


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