There is something special about putting a worm on a hook and casting it in the water. It takes many fishermen back to their earliest memories of fishing with Dad or Granddad and thoughts of wonderful, youthful days spent on a creek bank.
Even though worms are often a prominent bait of youthful memories, anglers often move away from them toward larger live baits, cut-baits or prepared baits as their catfishing experience grows. But worms are perhaps one of the most readily available and most consistently productive baits available to most fishermen as the weather and water warm.
Worms can be found in a variety of places during spring. Turning over wood, concrete, leaves or other matter that has laid on the ground all winter usually produces a few. Using a shovel to turn some earth in moist environments like the edges of drains, water seeps and nutrient-rich environments like compost piles or chicken pens can also produce enough earthworms for your next fishing trip.
Those techniques have a time and place, but if a person keeps a keen eye on the weather, a late afternoon or early evening rain can make worms easy pickings. Heavy rain will drive oxygen-seeking worms to the surface, and warm, dark nights will invite them to stay there, making them readily available to the quick hands of a fishermen looking for fresh bait. A flashlight or headlamp and a tin can or bucket are all you need to capture enough for a day of fishing. This is also a great activity for kids, and if you have a friend or two to help, you can gather enough worms for several days on the water.
If the worm-gathering expeditions happen not to coincide with an opportunity to get on the water soon, creating a worm bed can be a great way to hold the worms till they can be used. Start with a clean container like a Rubbermaid tub. Several things can be used for the base layer, but clean sphagnum moss is a good option. Other types of peat moss can be used but opt for those without any added chemicals or fertilizer.
Wet the moss and make a layer a few inches deep in the bottom of the container. The moss will be at the desired dampness if it holds together in a nice ball but does not drip water. Spread the moss, keeping it as loose as possible, and then cover with damp cardboard or newspapers. Keep the container in a cool, dark place, and worms will be readily available for several days or weeks. There are several great videos and how-to documents available on the web if a more structured environment and long-term housing or propagation is desired.
These yard worms fit nicely on a No. 4 or 2 baitholder hook and combined with an appropriate sinker can produce channel cats or small blues from a wide variety of waters. To target bigger cats, step up in hook size to 5/0 or 6/0 and cram the hook full of worms. Cast to some likely catfish habitat and hang on. Good luck!
(Chuck Long of Marmaduke, Arkansas has been a hardcore catfisherman his entire life. He typically fishes smaller rivers like the Black, St. Francis and Current, but also likes to the fish the Tennessee River. He recently retired after a 31-year career with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, 25 of that as a Regional Educator.)