Welcome to our new blog. We plan to feature articles by Texas fishermen who are skilled in the art of catching sunfish. If you would like to join our group please feel welcome. If you would like to post on this site please contact me at lilburn@uwmail.com. I have contacted many of you, and I await hearing from you and receiving your first article. Please limit your posts to how-to articles and stories about your fishing experiences. The more pictures the better. Controversial items, criticism of TPWD, and such should best be posted on the TFF or other forum. If you decide to post on a regular basis I will need a picture of you, your real name and your website if you have one. You will be added to the sidebar as one of our fishermen. No handles or avatars, please.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Raising Mealworms


Today we welcome Charles Burnett as our guest author.

Charles  is new to the fishing world. He picked up the sport early in 2011.  A transplant from California, he works in Information Technology field as a project manager. He posts to the TFF regularly as "drrouter".

When I first began fishing for bluegill, all I used were lures.  Fishing with Rooster Tail spinners or Rapala lures, I quickly learned that this was an expensive way to fish, especially for someone new.  Missed casts, unseen cover that constantly snagged my hooks all contributed to the expense (and frustration!) of my fishing trips.

After joining the Texas Fishing Forum, I began to learn that live bait was, in all likelihood, a more effective and less costly alternative to artificial bait.  At first, I just started using a combination of night crawlers and red wigglers, experimenting with all sorts of setups.   Transitioning from expensive lures to real bait not only improved my fishing, but lowered the cost of my newly found hobby.

During one of my visits to the local Academy Sports store, I noticed small cups of “mealworms”.  I didn’t know what they were used for specifically, so I did a bit of research and learned that they were very effective for catching sunfish.   Over the next few weeks I fished with mealworms almost exclusively; I found them to work as well for catching sunfish as regular live worms – and definitely less messy!  However, the quality of mealworms at Academy suffered dramatically.  I would find the cups half empty, worms near death, etc. so I began to look online for a different source.  I quickly figured out that it was easier and less expensive to raise them yourself than it was to buy them.

mealworms1Raising mealworms is about as easy as it gets.  First, you will need some sort of container that has walls that are at least 2 inches high on both sides.  I have found that the 3 drawer storage bins are very effective.  Mealworms will need three things to breed well; a source of food (Oatmeal works best for this), a source of water (carrots, celery) and a bit of structure for them to lay their eggs.

Your first step after buying your container is to buy some small or medium sized mealworms.  You do not want mealworms that are labeled “Giant”; these have been sprayed with a hormone which allows them to grow larger but they will not molt into beetles and breed.  You also don’t need many mealworms: 25 or so worked for me when I purchased them at Petsmart.  Next you’ll need to put your substrate down (a fancy word for about 1.5” of oatmeal), add the worms, some carrot pieces and you are set.

mealworms2Mealworms do not like cold temperatures, so if you want to breed them, you’ll need to keep your farm at room temp.  Make sure you continue to give them a slice of carrot every 2-3 days.  You can use any type of vegetable that isn’t overly acidic.  I have used leftover lettuce, cucumbers, apples, potatoes, etc.  Just be careful to take out anything that becomes moldy (lettuce and carrots work best for me).

A mealworm farm takes a couple of months to establish.  At first you’ll see small little pencil-lead sized meal worms, usually in the corners.  They will grow larger over time, ending up at about 1” long before they molt into pupa.  It takes about 3-5 weeks after the first signs of newly hatched mealworms for them to be of size suitable for fishing.  You’ll want to leave about half your mealworms in your farm, so they can molt into pupa.  The pupa stage will last about a week, after which mealworms will turn into beetles.  A lot of pupa won’t make it through to the stage of becoming a beetle, so don’t be alarmed if many of them die during this phase. 

After your initial batch of worms, depending upon your consumption rate, you will need to truncate your farm.  Beetles will produce rapidly and soon your initial farm will be overgrown.  I only use mealworms for myself; I don’t sell them, etc. so I’ll occasionally prune the farm, throwing excess mealworms into the local pond.  It’s my experience that you only need 20-25 beetles to sustain a farm that provides enough worms for fishing.

mealworms3After your farm is established, every few months or so, you’ll need to sift through your bins and transfer your mealworms to new substrate.  This is very important.  Your mealworms are eating, eliminating waste, etc. in their home and over time this will affect the health of the colony. 

To use mealworms for fishing, I use empty pill bottles with a bit of oats in them for transport.  I also recommend using either fly or very small 10 or 12 sized hooks.  You can utilize mealworms as you would any other live bait, with a drop shot, under a bobber, etc.  However, the most effective method I have used is a weighted bobber with the hook 10-12” below, allowing the mealworm to gently sink, as if it just fell from a tree.

Mealworms can be an easy, inexpensive and fun way to raise your own bait.  I still use other live baits, but during the spring, summer and early fall seasons I have found that mealworms are a very effective, low cost way for catching sunnies!

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