Why Do Fish Like Worms? (Explained)

Have you ever thought about why do fish like worms? Fish like the taste, scent, and presentation of worms.

These small invertebrate animals are powerless in the eyes of fish, making them easy prey compared to some crustaceans and other fish that can fight back. Just about any worms will do while fishing, although some species have their favorite kind of worms.

Here’s everything you should know about why fish like worms, and why worms are some of the best live fishing baits out there!

Why Do Fish Like Worms?

Most fish are opportunistic feeders who will eat anything they can find, and worms are often available. There’s no shortage of worm species for fish to choose from, with 2,700 known species of earthworms living in moist conditions around the world. More than 200 aquatic earthworm species live in fish habitats in North America alone.

Unlike some newer man-made baits that have only become popular in the last few decades, worms are a traditional and oftentimes natural food source for fish.

Fish are comfortable eating worms and even small fish species are well-equipped to digest little worms. Of course, worms are easier to eat than crayfish, crabs, or other fish that may put up a fight.

Worms don’t have eyes, just cell receptors to determine whether their surroundings are light or dark. In comparison to creatures with strong vision, claws, barbs, or sharp teeth, worms are pretty harmless and make for a fast, juicy meal for most fish.

Worms Taste Good to Fish

Some fish are pickier than others when it comes to food, but most won’t say no to a worm in front of their face. Worms have segmented bodies that are rich in blood and not much else.

Worms are long and tube-like, so they appear plump and juicy to fish. Worms offer plenty of protein that fish need for energy, growth, and ultimately, survival.

Many fish are particularly driven to eat worms due to the earthy flavor and wide availability in their habitats. Trout, bass, perch, crappie, bluegill, and walleye are some of the most common worm eaters in lakes and rivers. Saltwater fish often eat sea worms too.

Sand perches, pufferfish, gobies, and hawkfish are a few big worm eaters in the ocean. Most marine worms look like the common earthworms you’d see in the garden and put on the end of your fishing line, although some larger worms in the ocean have adapted to be more protected in their surroundings.

The bristle worm are covered in tiny bristles so they can sting when threatened, and other sea worms have tubes they hide in when predator fish swim by. Even so, there is a seemingly infinite amount of easily digestible words for fish of all sizes to grab hold of in the ocean.

Usually, the bigger the worm, the juicier it is, which of course makes it more attractive to hungry fish. However, even tiny worms like nematodes and flatworms are a good quick meal for hungry fish that need to take advantage of food when it comes by.

Worms Look Good to Fish

One reason why fish like worms is because worms look like many other foods that fish eat. There are many underwater bugs and critters that fish feed on, just look in any fly anglers box and you’ll be surprised as to how many things fish eat.

And just like in that fly anglers box there could be one artificial fly to represent many different bugs or insects, the same is for worms.

Depending on the fish you are after a worm could represent a squid or it could look like fly larvae.

The fact that worms wiggle underwater enhances a fish’s desire to check it out. Fish generally don’t have good distance vision so this movement helps get their attention.

Once the fish gets in close enough it is enticed by the smell and taste of the worm.

Worms Attract Fish With Their Scent

Why Do Fish Like Worms? (Explained)

Worms may not smell good to humans but their earthy, dirty scent is attractive to fish. While fish don’t mind eating either live or dead worms, it’s the live ones that really draw fish in with a satisfying, natural scent.

Most fish pick up on the telltale scent of worms before they see them, and they can’t resist searching for tasty, crunchy worms when they are hungry.

The natural scent of worms makes them a target for fish both big and small, as they can detect the smell of worms and know a protein-rich meal is waiting around the corner.

Bloodworms are especially good for this reason, as they are rich in blood, iron, and protein. It also helps that bloodworms have translucent skin so their blood is clearly visible to fish and other marine predators. The great smell and juicy taste of bloodworms make them a win-win for a fish that’s ready to eat.

Worms Are Natural Food Sources

Whether it be eels, shrimp, insects, or zooplankton, most fish are happy to eat crunchy, juicy meals of animals much smaller than them.

This cycle of life definitely includes worms, which naturally taste and smell good to fish and are also widely available in fish habitats everywhere. While some portions of lakes and rivers have more worms than others, fish are used to eating these small, segmented creatures.

With this in mind, it just makes sense that fish want to eat worms. Fish need consistent food sources and worms are defenseless prey that taste good and float around similar to other common fish foods like shrimp and insects.

If you’ve ever put a worm on the end of your line, then you know firsthand how they swim in a wavy direction. This movement intrigues fish and alerts them to a possible food source.

Worms are widely available in most bodies of water, both fresh and saltwater. Worm species may vary by location, but overall fish can rely on these small invertebrate animals to make up a good portion of their diet, along with smaller fish, eggs, insects, and aquatic plants.

Earthworms are a prime example of fish taking advantage of the food in front of them. All earthworms need moist soil to survive, which they can get not only in forests and fields but also in lakes, rivers, and streams.

Earthworms also need dead plant material to feed on, so many species may feed near or even under the water. The skin of earthworms absorbs oxygen from the water, allowing them to survive for a few weeks beneath the surface.

However, eventually earthworms will drown if they don’t get out of the water because they can’t swim. This makes vulnerable earthworms such as nightcrawlers fair game for many fish that seek out worms and snack on them.

Then there are aquatic worms like bloodworms and leeches that always live in the water, often underneath the organic matter at the bottom of rivers and lakes.

Worms Are Popular Fishing Bait

Why Do Fish Like Worms? (Explained)

One other key reason why fish like worms is that they are used to them. Not only are worms naturally found in fish habitats, but they are also often used by anglers to attract and ultimately catch fish. The more people that fish with worms, the more fish get used to these juicy invertebrates as a tasty snack.

Fish are encouraged to snack on worms not just by their own hunger, but also by avid anglers who use worms as their go-to baits. Even with the rise of modern fishing and artificial lures, the tradition of worms as live bait remains strong.

Lake fish in popular fishing spots may be more accustomed to worms than ocean fish that cover a much larger area and might never encounter a worm on the end of the line. However, because worms look like they are swimming when they move, even a shy, unfamiliar fish is likely to take the bait.

There are thousands of worm varieties discovered thus far, but here are a few of the most common worms used for bait and the fish that find these worms especially hard to resist.


Nightcrawlers are considered the staple fishing bait by most anglers, with a large size that makes them stand out in lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. They are about 1/3 inch in diameter and can grow to 8-10 inches long, attracting hungry gamefish that know they could get a good meal out of a plump nightcrawler.

Largemouth bass, trout, walleye, and catfish are known to hook onto nightcrawlers, especially because these worms spasm a lot and their movement captures the attention of bigger fish.


Bloodworms or red wigglers are on the other end of the spectrum in terms of size, as they are much smaller than nightcrawlers.

Despite their short length of 2-5 inches and their 1/4 inch diameter, the bright red color and strong earthy scent draw in fish looking for a quick meal. Bloodworms are versatile bait that can intrigue both small and large fish, such as trout, panfish, crappie, and perch.


Mealworms are another small type of worm, measuring just 1/2 inch long and around 1/8 inch wide. Even so, they are super crunchy and tasty, much like aquatic insects, another popular fish food source. Just one bite is enough to munch on mealworms for fish like perch, panfish, bluegill, crappie, and trout, just to name a few.


Leeches are predatory worms and a very common food source for fish in their natural ecosystem. Leeches are wriggly, slimy, and cylindrical, making them easy for fish to spot underwater. The smallest leeches are about 1/2 inch long while some can reach up to 20 inches, and about an inch in diameter. Bass, catfish, and walleye often chomp on leeches, but smaller fish make take advantage of these protein-rich worms too.


Many successful fishing outings are made possible by the right kind of worm.

Fish love worms because they taste juicy, have an attractive earthy scent, and are a familiar source of protein-rich food thanks to both their natural habitats and recreational fishing activity. The way worms move in the water also attracts fish.

Nightcrawlers, bloodworms, mealworms, and leeches are some of the worms fish like the best, but any kind of worm can work as live bait for fresh or saltwater fish.

string(10) "freshwater"
Scroll to Top