The Worm Lady - Waxworms as Fishing Bait
Ice Fishing with Wax Worms, Mealworms, Butterworms
Waxworm Larvae Bait Are Irresistible to Perch, Sunfish, Blue Gill and Crappie
Using larvae as fishing bait is a fairly common practice, especially in winter when fish are sealed under the ice, and demand a subtle presentation. Larval bait falls into three categories: spikes, wax worms and meal worms.
Spikes, also called maggots, are the larvae of various fly species, including the common house fly, are white and typically less than a half inch in length.
Mealworms, 'mealies' are the larger larvae of the darkling beetle, are usually brownish in colour, and about 3/4 to one inch in length.
Wax worms, 'waxies' in several ways are intermediate between the two; the larvae of the wax moth or bee moth, they are creamy white in colour and from 3/8 to 3/4 inches long.
Dad and Son Ice Fishing ... nice catch!
Our Wax worms are shipped in a wood shavings substrate, which insulates them so they can stay alive longer out in the cold of winter - penny was placed on top for sizing purposes
Wax worms are recognized as the best larvae bait for ice fishing, but many ice fishermen still argue that fact, each having their own favorite bait. Wax worms are truly enticing to most panfish species, particularly perch, bluegill and sunfish, and crappie as well, although crappie generally do prefer small minnows as a rule.
Wax worms can be fished through the ice on a plain hook, a #6 baitholder below a float with a small shot for weight is usually about right, but more often they are used to accept ice jigs. This combination can be a key to successful ice fishing, as jigs and live bait work reasonably well alone, but work so much better, even excel when used together.
Wax worms are a favorite because they come packed in a wood shavings substrate and require no care or feeding, will keep for weeks at temps of 45-55 F, and are also inexpensive to buy.
Mealworm bait and Waxworm bait for Ice Fishing
Waxworms may be bought at anglers/fishing bait shops, online at The Worm Lady, or at exotic reptile pet stores. They are often referred to as 'waxies' and used for catching some varieties of panfish, members of the sunfish family, Green sunfish, and can be used for shallow water fishing with use of a lighter weight. They're also used for fishing some members of the Salmonidae family, Masu salmon, White-spotted char and Rainbow trout (in areas where live bait is permitted).
Small jigging spoons, teardrop jigs and tube jigs are all great vehicles to deliver wax worms to panfish, however, the smallest possible jigs usually being best as they allow the wax worm to wiggle more freely, which is a big part of their attractiveness to the fish. You can hook one or two wax worms into a jig, inserting the hook through one end, to keep the waxworm bait alive and wiggling. It's also advisable to keep the jigging motion as subtle as possible to avoid spooking the fish. Wax worms will work at a variety of depths, and in any sort of cover, be it a rocky slope or shallow vegetation.
Keeping your bait alive, fresh and lively is very important and waxworms need to be kept above freezing, so keeping them in a container small enough to fit your jacket pocket is ideal. The dry wood shavings they are shipped in to you, and kept in, keeps them comfortable and lively until the time to get them in the water.
As with any live bait, of course, the key to success is to keep your bait lively and fresh. This means, keeping them from freezing, and changing your bait frequently. A good foam container is best, but tobacco tins are also popular. Just keep them in an inside pocket, unless you're in an ice hut.
Dave Genz, a renowned ice-fishing expert, is a big fan of larvae bait. Dave most likely generally spends more days on the ice every year than most of us do fishing open water.
"Maggots are my number one bait for big bull bluegills," he says, "and one of the keys to the effectiveness of these baits is scent, but most people don't realize this. Maggots have a tiny scent sack at the blunt end, near their eyes. If you lightly hook them through that bulge, the sack will burst and release this scent. It really triggers panfish, especially during the mid-day hours when they're usually not actively feeding."
Wil Wegman is an Ontario ice-fishing expert, and has been teaching a course on recreational ice-fishing and winter perch fishing for over 15 years. Larvae have become his main confidence bait. "I hate to go out without them," Wil says. "I was first turned onto maggots while competing in the 1991 World Ice-fishing Championship. The Swedish team was using them with great success, and I've been using them ever since. I use them from first ice to last ice."
"When the perch are active, you don't need maggots, but usually by mid-morning, I break out the larvae". "Same with crappies," adds Wegman. "When they don't want minnows, maggots can be the just the ticket."
Leon Maloney is another ice-fishing specialist, and used to guide anglers to jumbo perch through the fall and winter. "Our waters have changed a lot over the years," he says, "mostly due to zebra mussels, and anglers have to adapt or they won't catch fish." Leon uses maggots 90% of the time, preferring their hardiness over waxworms, but will use waxworms, for perch, crappies and bluegills. "A panfish is a panfish, although crappies will usually sit higher up in the water column than perch or bluegill."
So ... If you plan on catching fish on your next ice-fishing trip then you may want to consider bringing live larvae fish-bait ... and bring both, waxworms and mealworms, to be on the safe side.
Your question may be, "when it comes to Wax worms and Meal worms, what is the best bait?"
Many experienced anglers bring both to establish a pattern and rule out the variables. For some anglers it comes to a confidence choice between the two.
In truth, and reality, in order to choose between the two you would have to really understand what these larvae are and how to best utilize them. Waxworms and mealworms are the most common choice of pan fishermen today simply because they are both easy to find and buy, keep alive and pack along with you.
Mealworms, or 'mealies', are the larvae of the Darkling Beetle and typically reach 3/4 inch to 1 1/4 inch in size, and also can survive cooler temperatures. Due to their larger size 'mealies' match up better with larger-sized jigs, offering a bigger meal, thus attracting larger fish.
Waxworms are the larvae of the Bee Moth, or Wax Moth, and require temperatures between 42-55 degrees F, no lower than 42 F, so special attention is required to keep them alive during ice-fishing since they will freeze when exposed to the elements.
However, waxworms are a good choice if you like a bit more action throughout the day and like fishing for numbers.
The fact is that:
Both larvae baits are used to catch numerous species such as Perch, Blue Gills, Trout, Crappie, Walleye and Muskie.
Again, the key with larvae bait, and all live fish bait, is keeping them fresh and alive, which does require moderating their temperatures and living conditions. Changing out your bait more frequently will ensure fresh offerings and help to put the odds in your favour.
So to answer the age-old question of "Which bait is the best?" really boils down to 'The Application' and 'The User'. Some anglers may have a preference for using one bait in a particular body of water, while using the other one in other waters since it has proved to be more rewarding.
There is really no 'good or bad' when it comes to choosing between waxworms and mealworms. It is simply a matter of choice and personal preference. Just bring both fish bait and you'll improve your odds!
The bottom line is this:
If you do not bring and use these two larvae baits, you will not be catching as many fish as you could be,
and in some cases, you will not be catching anything at all!
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Our waxworms are white, and fat and wiggly (about 3'4" - 1" long in size).
Our 'mealies' are sturdy and wiggly (about 3'4" - 1" long in size).
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