Raising your own Crickets for Sunfish
Bait is expensive, Not only that, it is hard to find several of the most popular baits for sunfish. Walmart sells night crawlers and "trout worms" if you have one of the big stores in your area. Night crawlers are not very good bait for sunfish. To be usable at all they have to be cut in one-inch lengths. Pet Smart has a variety of reptile feeds that can be used as bait. However, they do not care for their crickets and worms and the baits are sickly and very high priced.
Faced with that problem I decided to raise my own. First I tackled crickets. Crickets are difficult to raise. First one must construct a suitable habitat. The requirements are temperature, food, water and a place to hide.
I used Walmart storage containers. I cut a square hole in the lid of the container and covered the opening with fine window screen. Crickets escape easily and get out in the room where they cheep endlessly.
I bought a very expensive reptile heater and thermostat from Pet Smart that put out about 25 watts. My habitat is located in the basement and it gets down to the low 60’s in a cold winter. Crickets need 75-85 degrees. I quickly discovered I had wasted my money for the reptile heater. More heat was needed. I drilled a hole in the side of the container and used a lamp socket and a 125-watt brooder bulb. I controlled it with the thermostat from the reptile heater. The brooder bulb was intended to warm baby chicks. This project would have been in trouble without the poultry industry.
Crickets need a constant supply of fresh water. They are dumb creatures that will drown themselves if they can. The answer to the problem is a poultry chick-watering dish. This gadget is a plastic bottom that screws onto an ordinary Mason jar and dribbles water into the pan. See the photo. The pan is deep enough for the crickets to drown. Cut or buy a foam donut to go into the watering dish. The crickets will suck water from the foam and cannot drown themselves.
The last requirement to keep crickets is a place to hide. Egg cartons will work. I use the cardboard cores from paper towels. The crickets will hide in the towel rolls and when you want to go fishing just shake the crickets from one or more rolls into your carrying cage.
So far we have covered how to keep crickets until you need them. If you want to hatch and raise crickets you will also need a flat pan about 8 inches by 8 inches by 2 inches deep filled with clean potting soil. Avoid the brands that have fertilizer or insecticide added. Moisten the soil. The female crickets will deposit eggs in the moist soil. The bad news is the soil must be kept moist at all times but not too wet until the baby crickets emerge. Too wet and you drown the babies. Too dry and the eggs will not hatch. Remove the pan after about 10 days and place it into another habitat. Continue to moisten the soil. If you leave the babies with the adults they will be eaten.
You can see that keeping and raising crickets is a lot of bother. Wgpj on the TFF suggests that Sunfish fishermen freeze the adult crickets in prescription bottles when they receive them from the hatchery and take a bottle or two out when they need them.
There are several good cricket farms to get your crickets. I always get the 2/3 grown crickets so they will live longer. Adult crickets only live about 2 weeks but if you buy the young ones they will live a month. The two farms I use are Armstrong’s and Fluker's. Fluker's usually runs a little cheaper. The best buy is 1000 crickets. Before the Anthrax scares in the post office a few years ago crickets were shipped Priority Mail for less than $5.00. Now they must come Fed Ex or UPS. The shipping actually costs more than the crickets.
Next time we will discuss raising red wrigglers.