Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Fish Bait
Nature Bulletin No. 70   June 15, 1946
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation

The bass season opens June 15 in the northern zone. Then the number of fishermen doubles because it will no longer be necessary to throw back a bass caught while fishing for crappies, bluegills, bullheads or carp. That breaks a fellow's heart. Fancy tackle is very hard to get this year. But black bass do take worms and minnows, as well as frogs, hellgramites, grasshoppers, crickets and other live baits. The fly-casters and bait-casters, who carry around a tackle box filled with gadgets made of wood, feathers, fur, paint and assorted hardware, have no better luck -- on the average -- than the live bait fishermen at whom they turn up their noses.

Worms are the No. 1 bait for all kinds of fish. Channel catfish bite well on the clam meats, either fresh or sour. Carp like doughballs. Crickets and grasshoppers are good bait for bass and panfish.

You can raise your own crickets, at the rate of 400 every 3 months, in a covered barrel or garbage can containing 6 inches of damp sand covered with 5 inches of wood excelsior; with a small saucer or lid filled with poultry laying-mash for food and a fruit jar inverted in a saucer to provide water. Place cotton in the saucer around the mouth of the jar to prevent the young crickets from drowning. The sand must be kept damp since crickets will not lay eggs in dry soil.

You can keep your own earthworms, too. The smaller species are better than the big night crawlers. Use a wash tub or large box with a few screened holes in the bottom for drainage. Place it in your basement or a cool shady place and fill it with 3 parts of good black soil mixed with 1 part of decaying leaves or grass clippings. Twice a month mix into the top layer 4 cups of oatmeal, some fatty meat scraps and some meat bones or cracked chicken bones. Keep the soil moist but not saturated. If the worms come to the top it is too wet and they are in danger of drowning.

On a long trip, worms can be transported in a box of moist earth or in sphagnum moss obtained from a florists's greenhouse. The earth is better too dry than too wet. Do not use sand. Worms eat their way through soil. Sand scratches their insides and kills them. A dead worm is no good for bait.

Grasshoppers and crickets can be carried best in a milk bottle plugged with a wad of paper. Crayfish and small frogs should be carried in a can with a few wet leaves but no water. Grubs, obtained from a manure pile, rotting log or old stump, can be carried like angleworms.

Minnows can be carried in a minnow bucket or pail one-third filled with water. Keep them in the shade and cool. Wrap the pail with a wet gunnysack or rags. Take only one or two dozen. Most people carry too much bait, killing and wasting much of it by over-crowding. Bait should be fresh and lively if you expect to catch bass, bluegills, crappies and other panfish.

But just remember that whether you are fishing for carp, bullheads, panfish, bass or even trout, the good old earthworm is the best all-round bait. Calvin Coolidge caught his trout with worms. So do the natives when they want to eat.

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