Mealworms for Ice Fishing (Do They Make Good Bait?)

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Mealworms are excellent live bait for ice fishing possibly during winter or spring days; they are great baits to lure fishes out of their comfort zones. In this article we’ll go in-depth to explain why..

Due to their natural motion and scent, they can entice a lot of fish species to strike and latch on to them, especially if you want to catch fish in ice cold situations.

You can use mealworms to catch small fish, and even some larger predatory fish.

During cold seasons, fish are relatively lazy so they won’t reject an easy meal and fish bait like mealworms that don’t require them to expend too much energy chasing them.

Successful fishing is all about the kind of bait you use to catch big or small fish in various conditions; that is why choosing the right worm is very important. Ice fishing is no different.

These species of worms make good bait for ice fishing;

  • Mealworms
  • Canadian night crawlers
  • Redworms/red wigglers
  • wax worms
  • African night crawlers
  • Ragworms

This article will take a detailed look at mealworms and other worm options that make for good baits during the winter season.

Are Mealworms Good for Ice Fishing?

Most assuredly, mealworms are good for ice fishing.

Many various fish species will eat mealworms but they may be too small for some bigger catch. Though a starving fish won’t complain!

They are among one of the best feeder worms for ice fishing (and also for pet feeding).

When at their juvenile stage, they should be stored in damp and dark storage containers.

You can either get them as pre-killed dead bait, dried, or as live baits before ice fishing; it is ideal to use them while alive as their movement will attract the fish you’re after.

Many fish enjoy natural living worms as they are attracted by both movement and smell.

With dead baits, you lose one out of two of those things (movement, and even sometimes scent if you’re rehydrating mealworms with hot water..more on this later)

Ice fish and freshwater fish species that enjoy mealworms include:

  • blue gill
  • crappie
  • trout (rainbow, brown and lake varieties)
  • yellow perch
  • small bass
  • even small walleye’s and sometimes catfish!

and others are drawn to a fresh, live, and wriggling mealworm in ice water.

There aren’t many fish you can’t catch with mealworms, though bigger earthworms like red wigglers and nightcrawlers may be more efficient.

In cases where you want to use dried mealworms or for ice fishing, make sure to rehydrate them using hot water; although the hot water might make it lose its natural scent to attract fish, where live baits don’t.

Are Other Worms Good for Ice Fishing?

There are varieties of worms that serve as a decent lure other than mealworms.

These worms are also an enticing option, and their sizes do not interfere with their lure. More fish eat worms than not as a food source as they’re tasty to the fish, easy to eat and meaty.

Once these worms are in your fishing storage gear, you can go ahead and carefully drill holes in frozen waters to kick-start your ice fishing.

Ensure you keep these worms alive and well until they are cast into the ice water where their jigging motions will attract fish.

Let’s take a detailed look at these worms (night crawlers/red wigglers and waxworms).

Nightcrawlers and Red Wigglers

Nightcrawlers and red wigglers are staple worms in the fishing world and are very popular in bait shops with many anglers.

They are ideal bait for ice fishing, it just depends on the fish species you want to lure and catch.

During winter seasons, these fish species are naturally drawn to night crawlers and red wigglers, they include;

  • Salmon
  • Panfish
  • Sunfish
  • Lake trout
  • Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Rainbow trout
  • Brown trout

Nightcrawlers are big, appear appealing to their lures, and wiggle like crazily.

Red wigglers are slightly smaller, so for your smaller fish species, they might be preferable.

Catfish and walleye that just roam about are sure to try and nibble on a night crawler.

If you are a group of anglers or ice fishermen, you’d agree with us that night crawlers are the most effective for ice fishing.


They are used by ice fishermen and anglers as live bait or they even come in artificial versions.

They are the pale larvae of bee moths (or wax moths) and are good baits to use when ice fishing.

The bluegill, sunfish, and crappie are lovers of wax worms.

You can store these worms in a container filled with sawdust and thereafter, refrigerate them before going ice fishing; this is because they have soft bodies which tear easily.

Waxworms are a popular food source and bait that end up on an anglers hook.

What are the Best Worms for Ice Fishing?

Butter worms: They are also known as tebo worms, and they are rapidly becoming one of the most used baits during ice fishing.

Their natural whiff attracts fishes like rock bass, perch, trout, crappie, and blue gill during fishing.

When next you are going ice fishing, be sure to add butter worms as your baits.

Red Worms/Wigglers: As per its name, it wiggles a lot.

These red worms come in perfect sizes that most fish would be more than excited to feed on.

Their wiggles are not too violent, but subtle enough to lure fishes.

During the winter seasons, varieties of fishes feast on these worms because their diet is limited.

The Red wigglers aren’t meant for bigger fishes; they are ideal for smaller fishes(trout, and other smaller fish species).

Mealworms: These worms have a smell that is awful to humans, but appealing to fishes.

During cold weather, the fishes see meal worms as easy meals; most fishes do not care about what they eat as long as it has the right smell and movement.

These mealworms are high in protein, and fishes can recognize them, especially those that feed on other proteinous worms.

Super worms are also interchangeable with meal worms. In fact, they’re sometimes preferred due to their size as they’re easier to hook and may provide more bulk for fish.

Spikes: They are the larvae of the blue bottle fly and look like the ones that hang around your garbage can if watched closely.

They are tiny, making them perfect for luring smaller fishes with smaller mouths(sunfish, panfish, and perch).

Mousies: This worm is the larvae of a drone fly.

It can also be called a rat-tailed worm but mousie sounds way better.

They are a little bit bigger than spikes, and when pierced they secrete a white liquid that smaller species of fishes and bigger perches can’t say no to.

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Which Ice Fish Don’t Eat Mealworms?

While even these fish will take mealworms off of your rod tip, you may have better success using other, bigger live baits with the following fish in the winter months:

  • Pickerel
  • Carp
  • Largemouth bass
  • Pike
  • Muskies

How to Use Worms as Ice Fishing Bait

Generally, it is advisable to use smaller sizes of worms during ice fishing but this depends on the size of fish you’re after.

One important factor to use worms as ice fishing bait is to use a small jig head with the worms in the hook.

Once the worm has been fixed, keep the worm suspended about a foot above below the ice water; you can also use a glowing jig head to attract the fish, making sure you don’t miss a bite.

If you keep catching smaller fishes, you can use a larger worm (bigger worms attracts bigger fishes).

Summary and Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has enlightened you on the different species of worms that you can catch in the ice, bringing more catch home.

If you are an angler, ice fishing with worms will likely be your favorite go-to bait.

I hope you experience a fruitful and enjoyable time while ice fishing, and also in the warmer months of the year.