By Louie Stout

Time to Gather Ice Fishing Bait

Sure, the weather is still warm. Yes, we just came out of 90-degree weather and the lakes are far from freezing.

But it’s not too soon to start thinking about ice fishing. Or, as Danny Moran does, get nutty about it.

If his name sounds familiar it’s because we wrote about his favorite, albeit unusual, panfish/ice fishing bait last winter: acorn and hickory nut worms.

Years ago, Moran’s uncle showed him that tiny grubs thrive inside those nuts and they make great fishing baits, especially when panfish are looking for bitty morsels, such as during the ice fishing season or during the spring.

“Now is the time to start collecting them,” said Moran, who has hardwood trees around his Osceola home. “The nuts are really falling now and I’ve already collected a bunch of the grubs.”

The worms are larvae of the acorn beetle ranging from ¼-3/8 inches long. They are creamy white.

The adult weevil will burrow into the nut while it’s developing on the tree and will lay her eggs inside the nut. Sometime after the nut falls from the tree, the eggs will hatch and the larvae will chew its way out.

Each fall, Moran and his brother Terry gather a five-pound potato sack of acorns and then places the bag in a five-gallon bucket. He checks the bucket regularly, lifting the bag of nuts looking for the grubs that have emerged and fallen into the bucket.

He picks them out and puts them in a butter dish or other plastic container, adds some dirt or wood clippings, and places them in the refrigerator. It’s important to add a little moisture periodically to the dirt.

Not all the worms survive but several do. That’s why you need to gather as many as you can.

And they’re good for fishing year round.

“I scooped up a big bag full this week and I’m already seeing the worms appear,” he said. “In fact, I plan to use some of them this weekend when we go bluegill fishing.”

Moran won’t say they are better than store bought maggot baits, but noted that they are nearly as tough as a mousie maggot and stay on the hook pretty good.

Oh, and the perch, bluegill and even a crappie will bite them.

“And best of all, they’re free,” he added. “All you need to do is start picking up nuts and gathering up the worms that come out of them.”

So, if a neighbor or a friend has nut trees on his property, offer to gather them up. You’ll find some good bait and be doing the landowner a favor by removing the nuts that litter the ground every fall.