How To Keep Fishing Worms Alive

Worms have been the king of baits for decades. Whether you’re fishing for trout, salmon, catfish, bass, or numerous other species, worms have and will continue to be one of the best baits available.

The problem arises with keeping them alive. With your crankbait or lure, you don’t have that worry about storage or much maintenance.

With live bait, things become a little trickier.

However, we’re here to tell you that not only can you keep them alive. You can grow your collection also.

The great benefit of keeping worms alive is that they are great composters and many gardeners use them precisely for this purpose only.

Worms need three things to stay alive:

  1. The Proper Temperature
  2. Moisture
  3. Food

If you can provide these three things, your worm collection will not only stay healthy but will thrive.

How To Make A Worm Farm For Fishing

If you require a steady supply of worms, it might be worth keeping them long-term. This will give you plenty of bait all year round as the worms will multiply. 

It’s not very difficult to do, and you won’t be needing to purchase worms from the bait store.

Maintain The Proper Temperature

Worms are fragile when it comes to maintaining the proper temperature, too low, and they will die from the cold; too high, they will die from the heat. 

They are cold-blooded and can’t regulate their own temperature, so you will have to do it for them.

If the temperature starts getting too warm, their metabolism will increase. This will mean they will need to feed more or burn their own fat stores.

A good temperature for worms is between 55-77F for red worms and 65-90F for Nightcrawlers. 

If the temperature gets above 84F, it could be fatal to your red worms.

If you’re going to store your worms outside, a cool shady place is best. A good idea is to bury the worm box in the ground leaving about two inches above ground.


It might surprise you to know that worms breathe through their skin. Have you ever went out after heavy rainfall and seen an abundance of worms around?

This is because, after the heavy rain, worms will move to the surface to avoid suffocation.

To keep your worms healthy, you need to provide them with the right moisture content. The perfect amount of moisture is between 40-60%. 

A great way to test this is to grab a handful of soil and squeeze it. If water streams out, it is too wet and should be left to dry out before adding worms.

Try to avoid using tap water if possible, as it often contains many chemicals or additives that could be harmful to the worms. The best is to use distilled water, the same as you would with minnows.


One of the benefits of growing your own worms is they like to eat all your leftover food.

They will make you a perfect compost pile while you get free bait, it’s a win-win situation.

Worms are voracious eaters and readily eat a wide range of food, such as:

  • Coffee grounds or filters
  • Eggshells
  • Cardboard
  • Bread
  • Powdered worm food
  • Hair
  • Teabags
  • Grass
  • Onions
  • Dairy
  • Citrus
  • Oils
  • Spices
  • Meat

When feeding your worms, it’s a good idea to break it down for them. This is because the smaller it is, the easier it is for them to compost. 

The amount of food you should feed them will depend on the number of worms you have. A worm will eat his own body weight in food per day. So if you have one pound of worms, you would feed one pound of food per day.

However, a good rule of thumb is to see that all the other food has gone before adding more. Worms can generally go a couple of days without food.


A plastic tote is perfect for storing worms. The ideal size is between 8” to 16” deep. 

Holes should be made on the bottom for drainage, as well as holes on the side for ventilation. The holes should be no bigger than 1/4″

For bedding, you can use standard newspaper with some soil or compost. Tear the newspaper into strips and dampen it before adding it to the container. Ideally, you want one to two inches of soil that does not contain any chemical fertilizers, which could be fatal to the worms.

When adding new food to the container, it’s essential to add more compost to cover the food or mix the food with the old compost.

To maintain the proper grit and control the calcium and PH, you should add a handful of ground limestone or a few well-crushed eggshells.

Keeping Worms Alive

If you don’t fish worms regularly or don’t want to keep them long-term, you likely purchase some from the bait store. 

These worms need to be kept at their peak to get the most from them on fishing day.

Keeping worms alive short-term is much the same as keeping them alive long-term.

When you get the worms from the bait store, they are in perfect conditions, and if you want to keep them alive and wiggling, there are a few things we should go over.

Putting the worms in the fridge while you wait for fishing morning is a great way to keep them in peak condition. 

After that, it’s much the same as the steps above for keeping them long term.

Depending on how long you are keeping them will determine whether you need to feed them or not.

However, the moisture level should be checked regularly, and the fridge will maintain optimal temperature.

On The Road

The first thing we need to think of here is storage. If the temperature is high, it can have a serious effect on your worms. So, a good idea is to use a cooler box to store your worms.

Keeping worms alive short-term is much the same as keeping them alive long-term.

It’s harder to maintain the perfect conditions when you’re on the go, and this is why the cooler is useful.

The only drawback of the cooler is the lack of ventilation and drainage. So, it’s important to open the lid regularly to let it ventilate. Likewise, don’t over-dampen the soil, or you will drown your worms.

Use the hand test above to check the moisture level.

How Long Will Worms Stay Alive In The Fridge?

If you provide the right conditions, your worms can stay in the fridge for up to a month.

The major drawback of a fridge is that it does not provide ventilation or drainage. However, this can be countered by being particular about the amount of moisture you add and opening the door regularly to allow ventilation.

The major benefit of a fridge is the ability to regulate the temperature a lot easier than if you were to store your worms outside.

Do Worms Need To Be Alive To Fish

worms on the hook

While you can use dead worms for fishing, you will find that most fish will prefer live worms.

Live worms will wriggle when you hook them and put them in the water, and this movement attracts the fish’s attention.

In some cases, dead worms might work. Dead worms really stink, which is attractive to catfish, so if your worms do die on you, put them to good use on some small channel catfish.

However, for fish like trout, dead worms aren’t much of an offering, and if they have other choices, it’s likely you won’t be getting many bites.

Final Thoughts

Keeping worms is a fun hobby. It has many benefits and very few drawbacks.

It provides a steady supply of bait for the majority of fish species and is great for composting.

However, if you’re only looking to keep worms alive long enough to catch some fish, the above methods will still work.

Almost every fish is going to prefer a live wriggling worm over a dead one. So with this insight into keeping worms, you can go out and increase your catch rate.

string(10) "freshwater"
Scroll to Top