My dad gave me all kinds of gifts growing up. The love of fishing was one of them. No one could catch more fish than Dad in my family, but Dad also knew when it was time to stop fishing and go skipping rocks across the lake or go searching for buried treasure. Having 5 children meant less fishing for dad and more playing most the time. Dad was always big into having live bait for catching fish, no matter if it was minnows for crappie, suckers for northern pike, or night crawlers for bluegill, bass, and carp. I guess that’s why we always caught fish; we had lively, fresh bait.
I grew up in a small town in the Midwest. Back then there was no cable TV, cell phones, video games, Facebook, text messaging, or internet. No distractions that could have taken my attention away from fishing. My younger brother and I spent most of our free time chasing night crawlers for live bait fishing. There was a skill to catching them and we were experts at catching these slimy, crawling critters. One of the best and easiest times to catch big night crawlers was after a hard rain. All you had to do was walk around and you could just pick them up off the sidewalk. The other way we caught them was at night. I think we tried every strategy known to get them to come out after the sun went down. We tried watering the lawn…I really mean flooding it with a garden hose. This method worked, until Dad got the water bill! Did I happen to mention that water that comes out of the garden hose is not free? The next technique involved used coffee grounds. I do not know who told us that sprinkling used coffee grounds on our lawn would make night crawlers come up, but I am thinking their last name was Mr. Folgers. I have to say this was one of our better strategies when it came to catching night crawlers. The night crawlers seem to love the taste and after a couple weeks of treating the lawn they seemed addicted to the grounds. Unfortunately, our hands and knees ended up getting coffee stains that refused to come out even after rigorous washing. We did smell better, but even today I associate the smell of coffee with night crawlers. Another of our secret techniques involved using pieces of red cellophane paper. The cellophane paper wrapped around the head of a flashlight would turn its light beam red so night crawlers would not slide back into the holes once the light exposed them. In the end, finding and catching fresh, plump, night crawlers came down to the right lawn and having it rain during the day before you went night crawler hunting that night.
Did I happen to mention the right lawn? We lived next to the courthouse that had the biggest, fertile lawn in town. Dad worked at the courthouse and we adopted the lawn as our own. It was the perfect location for night crawlers and was big enough to replenish itself to keep us well endowed in night crawlers. We would start hunting for the night crawlers right after it got dark. For us, it was a privilege to hunt night crawlers; usually, we would be sent to bed after it got dark, but not when we went hunting night crawlers. We could stay up till we got tired of catching them, or had enough to fill the containers in our refrigerator. The best catch would be when you found two night crawlers locked together and grabbed them both. A double was always worthy of a celebration howl. I can still see the image of our dad standing on the porch smiling as he looked at his kids on their hands and knees searching relentlessly for bait. He knew that the reward of catching our own bait would amplify the joy of catching fish with them. It was exactly like when he taught me how to fillet a fish. He knew I would enjoy the taste of fish more if I was to fillet it.
While most families in our town had two cars, we were probably the only family in town that had two refrigerators; one for food and drinks, the other just for storing our night crawlers. Our second refrigerator was outside in the garage next to the car. Thinking back, I realize that is how my parents stayed together so long. Dad always kept the live bait out of the house and in the garage. The second refrigerator was required to keep the night crawlers alive during the hot summer months. Our storage system consisted of one large styro-foam container with other smaller containers wherever they would fit. The bedding was either dirt or sheets of newspapers. When Dad had enough extra money he would buy worm bedding. It was our chore to keep an eye on them, remove the dead night crawlers, and change the bedding when necessary.
Sometimes we would catch so many night crawlers, we did not know what to do with them. That is when one of us kids came up with the brilliant idea to sell them. Back then our marketing skills and budget was limited. We found a piece of cardboard from a box that had been used before in what Dad referred to as brilliant idea to get rich. Thinking back, I realize now whenever Dad said we had a brilliant idea someone was always getting injured or cleaning up a mess. Like the time we thought using 2x4’s would work to make a great ramp like Evil Knievel used to jump parked cars with. So, one side of the sign had our recent out of business 5-cent lemonade stand ad and the side towards the road had our new 25-cent night crawler for sale sign. What we did not realize is that you have to be home to sell them. Being young and wanting to go fishing every free minute our sales of night crawlers was limited and our interest in becoming rich by selling night crawlers quickly disappeared.
Today, young anglers still go out and catch night crawlers after it rains or at night for their upcoming fishing trips. The promise of catching a big fish on a fat, juice night crawler has not died. While most of these young anglers do not have an extra refrigerator, they do have new advanced products such as live storage systems, worm food, pre-mixed worm bedding, and crawler cribs to keep them alive and healthy. One thing that remains consistent over the years is live bait still out produces artificial lures. Recently, my dad was standing on our boat dock fishing for bream with a night crawler; he would get excited and smile every time the bobber went under and he reeled in a fish. I think to myself on this Father’s day that my dad gave me one of the best gifts ever, the love of fishing.
Happy Father’s Day from your brilliant children: Robert, Jeannie, Carol, Brad, and Jon.
Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved. BRAD WIEGMANN
All images and articles on this site are © Brad Wiegmann and all rights are reserved.
No image or article may be used in any way without my permission.
Complimentary samples of the products described in this website were provided for evaluation by the manufacturers mentioned.