Every angler born south of the Mason-Dixon line knows two things for certain: One, fish don’t start biting until the first full moon in May and two, Catawba worms are the finest bream and catfish bait under Heaven.
Sure, some people may pronounce it ca-tal-pa, but if you would like to be understood by those of us who prefer a little tea with our sugar, I’d stick to ca-taw-ba.
Each year female sphinx moths lay thousands of eggs on the underside of Catawba leaves. The eggs produce larve which will later turn into yellow and black Catawba worms.
As the worms mature, they develop yellow stripes and black spots. Then they are ripe for picking.
To fish with Catawba worms, you must first catch Catawba worms.
Start looking for these creepy crawlers to emerge in early- to mid-May. As soon as you see them on the tree, start collecting them. We’re not the only ones with designs on these innocuous critters. They make excellent snacks for birds.
If you don’t see the worms in the adult phase, they have burrowed in the ground to return as moths next year.
After you have picked as many Catawba worms as you can fit in your favorite Tupperware container, head to the nearest tackle shop. Pick up No. 1 hooks, 1/16-ounce split shots and corks.
The real fun begins once you arrive at your favorite backwater fishing hole.
With your pocket knife, cut the worm in half. It will ooze a fluorescent green goo and may turn your stomach. To the fish, it smells like a T-bone steak.
Using a match stick, press the end of the worm to turn it inside-out. Next, affix the worm to the hook so the shaft of the hook runs the length of the worm’s body. This technique along with the worm’s tough exterior skin will prevent you from losing your bait while casting.
If you’re fishing for bream, cast along the banks under trees or other structure providing cover or shade. If catfish is your aim, skip the cork and use a slightly heavier weight to keep your bait along the bottom.
Either way, be prepared for a lot of tugs on your line and a cooler full of fish to clean when you get home.
If you have a few Catawba worms left over, don’t throw them out! Pour some corn meal in the container. Put the lid on it and place it in the freezer. These worms will keep for up to a year.
When you’re ready for your next fishing trip, pull them out of the freezer. Once they warm up, they’ll be good as new.
Delicious for fishes. | Photo: Justin Goethe