Nightcrawlers: Are They Good For Ice Fishing? (Advice)

Ice fishing is very gratifying, yielding massive fish when it seems everything is dead on the surface of the lake.

During this icy winter period, fish will be searching for food rich in protein, and what better than a nightcrawler? Have you perhaps wondered if they are good for ice fishing?

Nightcrawlers are good live bait for ice fishing. They are very popular with panfish species such as Trout, Bluegill, and Crappie. They are also effective on gamefish such as Northern Pike Yellowfish and Perch during winter, but Walleyes tend to ignore nightcrawlers altogether under the ice.

Perhaps you are entering the world of ice fishing and may think a nightcrawler is something that requires an exterminator, or you are an old hand at ice fishing but have never used nightcrawlers before.

If you fit either category, let us explore this versatile baiting option for ice fishing a bit further;

Where Can You Get Nightcrawlers During Winter?

If you like using nightcrawlers in general as bait, but it’s in the middle of winter, you have three methods for getting a batch of live bait.

Anglers that regularly fish for trout like to have a ready supply of nightcrawlers available all year round. The two ways are;

  • Buying from a tackle shop and shipping them express.
  • Buying them from a specialist pet store and having them shipped express.
  • Creating your own worm farm to harvest from any time of the year.
Photo of Ice fishing Nightcrawlers
Are Worms Good for Ice Fishing?

Having a nightcrawler farm can save you a few dollars and time not waiting for them to arrive.

How Do You Rig A Hook With A Nightcrawler?

How you hook a worm will mainly become a personal choice but depending on the types of fish you are after, you might want to start small and work your way up on baiting size.

Here is what you should do when baiting a hook with a nightcrawler:

  • For panfish, you can use a medium-size worm.
  • Enter the hook a quarter way down the body and then run it all the way through on the hook.
  • Push the end of the hook through close to the other end of the body. For the best result, push it past the barb. There should be a small piece of the nightcrawler’s body able to wiggle, which will attract fish like Crappie, Trout, Bluegill, and Bass.

How Do You Effectively Ice Fish With A Nightcrawler?

The most effective way to fish with a nightcrawler will largely depend on the type of fish you are trying to attract. Two of the best practices would be to attach it to a tiny jigging bug or to fish it almost at the bottom like a Senko lure;

How To Jig With A Nightcrawler –

  • Using a small to medium jig, pinch off half of a nightcrawler and feed it onto the hook leaving a small body section to dangle free.
  • Drop your bait through the hole.
  • Let it sink to a suitable depth and as you start reeling, lift the rod tip gently and let it drop again.
  • Continue with this pattern until you get a bite or drop it down again.
  • Keep tabs on the nightcrawler to see if the entire worm is still attached.

How To Bottom Fish A Nightcrawler Like A Senko –

  • Drop the lure into the hole just like the jigged bait
  • Let it sink as deep as it can go
  • Reel the bait in every few seconds and then leave it
  • Since the freezing water will kill the nightcrawler, you need to reel it to make it seem alive and attract fish.

Can Nightcrawlers Freeze?

Nightcrawlers can quickly become frozen when you’re out on the ice and don’t keep them protected.

A plastic container will be too thin to protect them from the freezing temperatures, so a great alternative is to use a Styrofoam container that will allow more insulation keeping the nightcrawlers alive.

Placing them in a glass jar in your jacket can keep them warm as well.

If they become frozen, you should discard them immediately as it will be impossible to use them on a hook.

Once the worms have frozen and thawed out, they will turn into a stinky, gooey mess that will make even the strongest stomach turn.

Keeping your nightcrawlers alive, supple, and fresh is the goal even when you’re on the ice.

Can You Refrigerate Nightcrawlers?

Nightcrawlers can be kept outdoors in their natural habitat, but if you are in the middle of winter and need to keep them alive for your ice fishing trip, worms can be refrigerated successfully.

Nightcrawlers can live in the fridge for up to three weeks, and this is how you do that;

  • Using a Styrofoam container, place some substrate in and put the worms inside. Cover them with a layer of soil.
  • Mist the top layer slightly but do not soak the medium.
  • Make a few holes in the container.
  • Set the temperature to around 37°F and make sure they are not near the freezing compartment.
  • Feed the nightcrawlers at least once a week with a few fruit pieces, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, or vegetable scraps.
  • Please don’t overfeed them, or they will die. Remove any dead worms immediately as this will kill the rest in no time.

How Much Do Nightcrawlers Cost?

To get a good indication of what your next I’ve fishing trip will cost, here are a few price indicators on buying nightcrawlers from a registered worm farm.

Some well-recommended suppliers will ship the nightcrawlers with the minimum chance of loss –

The Huge Canadian Nightcrawler prices below are from one of our local bait shop dealers in the Wyoming/Montana area – Pryor Creek Bait Co.

Prices are subject to change and may vary, so check in for updated pricing.

  • 12ct Night Crawlers Dirt : $3.00
  • 18ct Baby Nightcrawlers: $3.00
  • 24ct Night Crawlers Dirt: $5.50
  • 250ct Night Crawlers (Half Flat) Dirt: $45.00
  • 250ct Night Crawlers (Half Flat) Paper Bedding:$50.00
  • 500ct Night Crawlers (Flat) : $75.00
  • 500ct Night Crawlers (Flat) Paper Bedding:$80.00


Nightcrawlers are a very versatile, proven live bait for all kinds of fishing. They are used successfully during all seasons and are a staple for many ice fishermen.

Follow the handy tips to keep them from freezing, and before you know it, you’ll have your limit of fish ready for the pan.

Have fun and stay safe out there!

Mike Rodman

Mike is an avid ice fisherman and fishes the Rocky Mountain Region and across the US Ice Belt and Canada. During the off-winter months, he enjoys fly fishing the Wyoming mountains and fishing from his kayak for pike and smallmouth bass. When Mike can find a little spare time, he'll be at his rod bench building custom fishing rods.

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