Crawlers, leeches last longer when handled correctly
A few weeks ago I discussed some ways to save minnows efficiently. Now that the weather and water temperatures have warmed up the night crawler and leech bite is active. This makes it a good time to share a few suggestions about hanging on to those baits also. If you have a "bait" fridge you are in good shape to save your bait and also not freak any of your family or roommates out when they go rummaging for food in the household refrigerator. If you don't have a "bait" fridge, you may want to consider getting one for the garage or shop. It will be a worthwhile investment.
Having your own space to maintain night crawlers and leeches allows you to get them in bulk. The bait shops might not like me for sharing this information, but most of them will sell night crawlers by the "flat" and leeches by the pound.
To keep the night crawlers fresh you will want to transfer them out of the dirt they come in and put them with night crawler bedding into a Styrofoam container. The container needs to be able to let in air, but keep the crawlers contained. These crawler containers are sold most anywhere that sells bait or tackle. Most of the containers will safely keep a half of a flat of crawlers in bedding fresh (about 250-300 night crawlers).
Years ago when my boys were young, ambitious, and helpful, we would go night crawler hunting. This is by far the cheapest way to get your fishing bait. It is also fun and challenging if trying to pull them from the ground. Putting them in bedding and feeding them corn meal every once in a while will keep them happy and plump. Most bedding that is sold has night crawler nutrients or food in it also.
When it starts to turn dark or get too damp, just change the bedding. Follow the instructions when mixing your bedding. It is better to error on the side of to dry than to wet. Make sure you clear any sick or week looking crawlers out of the container.
When you head out fishing, simply take crawlers out, and put them into a container for use in the boat. Some people like to wash their crawlers in cold water and put them into a plastic bag in the boat cooler. Putting them in cold water makes them swell up and creates a plump offering for the fish. This will also keep the boat clean and free of night crawler bedding.
Leeches are very easy to keep for long periods of time if following a few basic care instructions. First, they must be maintained in clean, fresh water. Well water is the best. Remember you cannot use lake water anymore to refresh them, or float them in leech bags in your live well and use them again due to the risk of spreading invasive species. You can keep them in a container (of well or tap water) in your cooler. A container that can hold about a half gallon of fresh water will easily keep a pound of leeches fresh if they are refrigerated and the water is changed every 2-3 days. Take out what you need for the day and put them (along with your crawlers) in your cooler in the boat.
Leeches sold by the pound will be between 100-120 leeches, as it is usually a mix of jumbo, large, and medium size leeches. It takes about 80-90 of the xlarge/jumbo leeches to make a pound.
If you fish often, it is easy to see how you can save a few bucks buying in bulk versus buying bait by the dozen. If you aren't good at babysitting bait or don't want to be bothered with the inconvenience or work of buying in bulk, it will be to your advantage to just buy by the dozen that you need for the day.
I know some fisherman have gone to all artificial bait. Good luck with that. I am still a live bait guy. I know some of the rest of you are too!
(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)