Do Catfish Eat Worms? (Which Worms Make the Best Bait)

I and a few of my fisherman buddies were having a discussion about whether catfish enjoy eating worms and which types work best to catch catfish.

Our own experience says “YES!” but we wanted to do some research for our own curiosity and to potentially catch more catfish with worms, or to see whether we should move on to use other baits.

Worms are a delicacy for catfish, who seem to devour them with delight – they are opportunistic feeders, so worms like red worms and night crawlers certainly seem to attract their taste buds.

Worms are the ideal bait for catfish and are accessible everywhere in every garden and bait shop.

Worms have a fragrance that attracts fish and enough natural movement to attract fish day or night.

But let’s go into more detail about whether catfish eat worms, what type of worms they like and whether they make for good catfish baits!

Do Catfish Like to Eat Worms?

Yes, worms are appealing to catfish because catfish are considered to be feed opportunistically as well as being scavengers of lake and river beds.

As well as worms, Catfish tend to consume a wide variety of foods as a result of being opportunistic feeders – they even eat insects and other food sources!

There are even stories of them eating larger animals like the story from Germany where a larger cat fish sprung out of a river bank to eat a puppy!

Catfish anglers are always looking for the most effective bait when targeting catfish that will bring the fish to them outdoors. A worm definitely ticks this box.

Catfish have a natural propensity for eating worms, even though worms do not necessarily reside in water. (Though aquatic worms do; more on this later in the article)

Fish will most certainly bite when presented with a wriggling worm’s natural odor and irregular movement.

It is well-documented that worms are among the most effective bait for luring catfish.

Do Catfish Eat Dead Worms?

Catfish are known to consume dead worms too, and will have a hard time keeping their mouths off of them since they seem to genuinely enjoy the taste of worms.

While you lose the lure of the movement that a live worm bait gives you in the water, dead worms can still be effective for anglers as catfish can seek them out through taste and smell.

Worm’s smell pleasing and taste good, feel good, and look good to catfish.

They exude a scent naturally more enticing to fish than any artificial lure. It would appear that their taste is preferable to that of plastic or wood.

They have a natural feeling that allows a catfish to tell when they have hit the real deal instead of imitating the real thing (though if they bite a plastic worm bait, it’s usually too late anyway!)

When catfish spot or sense a worm, dead or alive, they immediately recognize the presence of a delicious and nourishing meal.

Which Type of Aquatic Worms do Catfish Eat in the Wild?

Aquatic earthworms, (collectively known as “Oligochaeta) similarly to catfish, are often bottom-feeders that live-in or burrow through the upper layer of the water bed where the sediment is soft and fine.

They will graze on things like dead organic matter, bacteria, algae and protozoa.

Others create and live inside mud tubes in the water bed, with their back end sticking out which helps them to absorb oxygen and breathe.

You can probably see where this is going…Catfish will absolutely also eat aquatic worms.

Why would they pass up such an easy meal in their own territory?

Aquatic worms are found in shallow freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, streams and other waterlogged areas.

They are closely related to earthworms.

During certain times of the year, depending on water levels, they may concentrate on eating more oversized items like small animals, crabs, fish, or plants.

They can adapt to subsist on trash or even carrion meat in rough times – with most things being edible in their diet.

Which Worm Species Make the Best Catfish Bait?

Choosing the proper worm is one of the most critical aspects of worm fishing.

Many anglers believe that the larger the worm, the more productive your fishing activities will be.

The following is a list of the various worm types used to catch catfish, whether you’re looking to catch larger catfish or smaller fish types.

Night crawlers

Nightcrawlers work well and continue to be among the most effective baits for luring catfish to bite. Whether you’re after a larger catfish like the flathead catfish or smaller catfish (relatively!) like the channel Catfish.

They smell natural, and the catfish enjoy their flavor.

The general rule for night crawlers and catfish is that the larger they are, the better, and even smaller catfish will like giant, juicy worms (as even small catfish are large compared to many fish species.)

If you can only find small or medium-sized worms, it usually is advisable to put two or three on a hook.

Unlike most other species, catfish do not care how night crawlers are attached to the hook.

They feed primarily by smell and taste, not by sight.

Therefore, the greater the amount of worm wrapped and sewed onto the hook, the greater the likelihood of catching catfish.

Catfish that prowl the bottom of the water in search of an easy meal will quickly devour your night crawler, making them among the most popular baits for many fish.

Red Wigglers

Red Wigglers maintain a decent amount of activity and “wiggle” (it’s in their name!) when fixed to your hook, which, in turn, attracts fish well.

Since these worms are also the most common composting worms in the world and can be easily raised in a controlled setting, they are typically available in your area and are usually not challenging to locate.

They do not need to be refrigerated because they can endure such a wide range of temperatures, and as long as they are kept in the appropriate settings, they will continue to be live for a few weeks.

Using red wigglers as live fishing bait is not only a fantastic educational opportunity for adults and children of all ages, but also incredibly cost-effective.

Since these worms are smaller than night crawlers, you may want to double or triple up these worms when using them as bait on your fishing hook.

Meal Worms

Mealworms are live bait, and are more buoyant than earthworms and nightcrawlers.

This means it is simpler to keep them for feeding channel cats than either of those other two types of worm bait.

The channel cat species tends to swim higher than the more bottom-dwelling catfish species.

Mealworms are still good baits for the deeper cats too, as long as you are adding weight to your fishing hook to help the bait sink a little lower into the lakes you visit.

Additionally, the golden color of a mealworm’s exoskeleton makes it more visible and sparkly than typical bait.

This is especially helpful in murky, dark waters where is normally difficult for fish to see any movement that is taking place below the surface of the water.

NOTE: it’s a MYTH that catfish are blind. They actually have excellent vision, especially for finding a food source when their stomachs are rumbling!

This is an advantage for anglers.

Wax Worms

Because of their tender skin, wax worms are simple to digest.

They are sugary and sweet, which gives them flavor and makes them addictive for any cats that catch their scent.

The downside is that wax worms are pretty small in size, so you’ll be best putting a few at a time on your hook before casting out your rod.

Wax worms are commonly marketed in tins, in condiment cups and may be purchased at department stores and bait shops.

They are kept alive by storing them with sawdust, which gives them a base to crawl around in while they are being stored and hence allows them to remain alive.

Anglers, whether professionals or amateurs, strongly suggest using wax worms.

Do Catfish Eat Plastic Worms?

Catfish will bite on to a plastic worm but will generally not eat it as it doesn’t form a part of its diet. If they do eat it, it’s by accident and unknowingly.

Obviously, the goal of a plastic worm bait is to act as a lure to catch catfish, rather than to use it as food or feed your pet catfish! (not recommended)

The best artificial bait for catfish should be scented or have some kind of vibrating function to more closely mimic live prey and increase chances of catching large and small cats alike.

Other Things Catfish Eat (like Cut Bait)

Cut bait, just like it says on the tin, means that you are using cut food (most often, other fish) to lure and hook your fish.

The most common cut fish to use as bait for catfish are:

  • Carp
  • Perch
  • Bluegill
  • Sunfish
  • Threadfin Shad
  • Gizzard Shad
  • Skipjack Herring
  • Buffalo

Other fish can also be used but generally, the oilier the fish, the better.

Cut bait is great for luring walleye and cats (the fish, not the “meow” type!).


Catfish certainly love worms as a food source, even though it’s not a part of their typical diet, especially earthworms since they don’t live in water.

In case you had any doubts, yes catfish and other fish love most types of worms and can be caught using worms as live bait.

Due to their efficiency, worms are one of the most popular catfish baits.

Catfish are a diverse group of ray-finned fish who scavenge and eat a wide range of foods like worms, insects all the way to chicken livers!

Worms are the real deal in a sea full of artificial lures (though plastic worm lures can be effective for fishing too without a doubt, especially when scent and movement is added!)

Read more related articles here:

Do Frogs Eat Worms? [What About Toads?]

Do Trout Eat Worms?