Need an alternative to nightcrawlers

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Mud's picture
Need an alternative to nightcrawlers
<p>My father is allergic to nightcrawers to the point where he can die if he gets a bit in a cut, same with smaller worms but not quite as much. We are going for a two week fishing/camping trip in the garrison dam tailrace where he grew up fishing (There is an expedition from summer last year called &quot;the amazing roughfishing mecca of the plains&quot; that somebody wrote up) and we are planning on getting some rough fish alongside the normal trout and salmon. Our current plan involves drifting lightly weighted bait alongside and area we have seen suckers and carp swimming around, but the problem is the bait itself. We are unable to use nightcrawlers or earthworms because of the allergy. We can&#39;t really use leeches because the water is so cold that they would just ball up. Our brainstorm of random baits include clams, grasshoppers/crickets (hard to get ahold of), salad shrimp, minnows (Pretty unlikely because of how fragile they are ), smelt, and cut bait.</p> <p>We will be fishing in late spring in a large, very cold (low 50s fahrenheit), fast moving river for buffalo, carp, suckers, the lucky shovelnose sturgeon, and really whatever else might grab a bait on the bottom. So, what would be the best bait for a situation like that?</p>
Phil's picture
That’s a tough situation Mud,

That’s a tough situation Mud,  but a great plan for a trip.  Crawlers really shine there but the challenge of catching some fish on different baits could add to the fun. 

Cut bait or some fatheads  (N. Dakota is very restrictive as to legal minnow species for bait ) should keep you very busy on channel cats, drum, and probably goldeye –be careful though, there is a bit of pesky walleye infestation in those parts as well. Don't think that the minnows have to be live to work well either, especially there. Corn and prepared bait should do the trick for carp.  I have heard rumors that buffs will hit a variety of baits including artificials when they are in the mood.  The white suckers may be a bit tougher, but there’s a real nice population in that system. I am one who tends to be chucking out some serious poundage of meat when I get to a big river, but I have seen a lot of nice fish of many different species come in on just one or two wax worms on a small hook.  There have been a couple of threads in the past on the alternatives to crawlers, I think there is a lot of room for experimentation and this just might be the situation where a good new discovery is made.  Let us know how it goes!

Eli's picture
Wow never heard of a nightcra

Wow never heard of a nightcrawler allergy, let alone a deadly, anaphylatic shock type one...


Shrimp, sweet corn, muscles, spam, berkley crawlers, crickets...all potential options. 

You could use crawlers and bait your dad's hooks and unhook his fish so that he doesn't touch them?




Gunnar's picture
I wouldn't think whatever in

I wouldn't think whatever in earthworms triggers the allergic reaction would also be in grubs of various sorts, so maybe you could get a shovel and gather some of the larger beetle larvae found in gardens and lawns, or break open logs in the woods to gather the various larvae/grubs found there. Would take work to get enough, though. You might ask at pet stores to see if they can get you quantities of crickets/hoppers/grubs.


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers:

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

Mud's picture
Thanks for all the suggestion

Thanks for all the suggestions, everybody. I will talk this stuff over with my dad and I will be sure to get back to you all when we get back. Also, Phil, the bit about the buffs hitting artificials is definitely true. When my dad and I went up a few years ago, we both got a smallmouth buffalo on crankbaits. I would guess it is because they had to adapt to the main food source being smelt coming through the dam.

TonyS's picture
Get ahold of some smelt there

Get ahold of some smelt there too from what I understand, should catch buffalo and sturgeon - along with predatory fish.  Shorefisherman on this site frequents that spot, I know he uses fresh smelt some times.

Mud's picture
I just remembered I had an ol

I just remembered I had an old crayfish trap laying around. I was thinking of trying some shallow bay on the lake or maybe the spillway pond. Would crayfish be reliable this early in the year? Was thinking of baiting it with a dead goldeye or something.


Edit: Also, assuming I can get some, would it be better to fish them shell on or off?

Corey's picture
Crawler alternatives

You can buy fresh frozen squid in many asian grocery stores.  Squid is a decent alternative to try.


Mud's picture
One last thing as long as I a

One last thing as long as I already have a post going. I know that river has burbot but would they be common enough to bother targeting outside of winter? I know there are a lot of people fishing them during the winter, but never heard of people targeting them during the spring, summer, or fall. The water should be plenty cold to support them, but I would assume they go downstream to lake oahe, the next reservoir down, rather than stay in the fast water. I asked my dad about it and apparently he caught one once while jigging with a minnow for walleye years ago, but never heard of any other caught outside of the winter. So, anybody have any guesses about it?

Tyler W
Tyler W's picture
Mussels too

Get some frozen mussels from an Asian Grocery store. But, they should be kept cold, once they start to smell the fish don't like them nearly as much.

Also, I will give a +1 for: waxworm, crayfish, eurolarvae, wigglers (mayfly nymphs), corn, Gulp, minnows and cut bait of all sort. I also wouldn't totally count out leaches, I think balling up on the hook won't reduce their effectiveness much it at all since I usually fish crawlers balled on a hook. Small leaches are probably one of the best crawler substitutes.


If you have problems getting some of the lives baits locally try ordering from Vados.


Mud's picture
Regarding meal and wax worms,

Regarding meal and wax worms, which would be better? I have only ever fished with them while ice fishing and I have always found wax worms to be better, but I also have never kept them for more than a day. Will either of them last for a full two weeks? I will have access to a cooler full of ice.

pmk00001's picture
If you go the Squid Route

Think about salting it down before you go, makes squid a lot easier to deal with.

the pyromaniac
the pyromaniac's picture
I've not done as well with wa

I've not done as well with waxies as I have with mealworms.  Mealies are my preferred alternative to crawlers.  I've caught largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, rock bass, Roanoke bass, bluegill, green sunfish, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, longear sunfish, creek chubs, river chubs, striped shiners, common shiners, black crappie, fallfish, and 4-5 inch striped bass on them.




Let there be fire!