Red wigglers vs Nightcrawlers: Which is Better for Fishing?

Thomas Krik

Written by

Thomas Krik

Marc Lowe


Marc Lowe

red wigglers vs nightcrawlers

Every angler knows that worms make attractive and mouth watering bait. Their wiggles, appearance, and strong scent can draw attention from a variety of freshwater fish.

However, did you know that many types of worms live beyond your feet? While you can use any worm for fishing, specific types may attract bass, trout, or panfish like crazy!

In this article, we’ll dive into the world of the two well-known worm baits for fishing — red wigglers vs nightcrawlers. After reading it, you’ll have a deeper knowledge about these worms and how they can help you reel in that perfect catch.

Before we’ll jump into details, here’s a quick comparison table between nightcrawlers vs red wigglers:

Red Wigglers Nightcrawlers
Species Eisenia fetida Eisenia hortensis, Lumbricus terrestris, Eudrilus eugeniae
Other names Red worms/Compost worms/Manure worms/Tiger worms Dew worms/Common earthworms
Applications Best for composting, but not too efficient for bait fishing Can be good for composting but most effective for fishing
Size Smaller and thinner Larger and fatter
Length Up to 3 inches Up to 14 inches
Environment 70 – 80°F 60 – 70°F
Reproduction rate High Low
Color Reddish-purple Grayish-red
Diet Munch on decaying plants, food scrap, microorganisms, and organic matters Feeds on rotten leaves, woodchips, and other organic materials above ground

Red Wigglers — A.K.A Red Worms or Compost Worms


Imagine a little, wiggling creature and nutrient-rich bait ready to seduce a hungry fish. That’s how the red wigglers come into play in fishing. Their vivid red color and miniature profile make them a surefire trick for catching smaller species like trout, bluegill, and many more.

Scientifically known as Eisenia fetida, these little critters are also called red worms, trout worms, tiger worms, and compost worms. They’re reddish-purple and typically measure around 2 to 3 inches in length.

Red wigglers are the tiny creatures you often see in compost piles. They’re excellent at breaking down organic materials quickly and efficiently, making them perfect for use in vermicomposting. These worms thrive in environments rich in decaying organic matter, such as decomposing leaves, fruits, vegetables, and manure.

The use of these squirmy worms in fishing offers multiple benefits. However, they also have a few weaknesses. Take a look below:

  • Squirm like crazy on the water
  • Reproduce rapidly
  • Alive and wiggling for longer
  • Inexpensive and readily available
  • Not a good bait for larger fish
  • Can be challenging to set up in a hook

Nightcrawlers — A.K.A Dew Worms


Have you seen earthworms dwelling at night? Those are probably nightcrawlers, the gentle giants of the worm species! They’re a type of large earthworm that has three common species; namely:

  • Eisenia hortensis — European nightcrawlers
  • Lumbricus terrestris — Canadian nightcrawlers
  • Eudrilus eugeniae — African nightcrawlers

You’ll often see nightcrawlers on sidewalks and driveways after a heavy downpour. Moreover, they prefer wandering at night (nocturnal), feeding on decaying leaves, wood chunks, and other organic wastes. However, they spend the day burrowing underground.

Nightcrawlers are versatile and durable baits that any angler can use under most circumstances. Cast them out under a cork or weighted bobber or pitch them straight to the fish, and you’ll be sure to reel in a catch in minutes.

You can also use them to target largemouth bass, trophy trout, catfish, and other larger species. If you’re targeting smaller fish, you can divide a nightcrawler worm into pieces and cast them out to lure perch or sunfish.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of nightcrawlers in fishing:

  • Large and juicy with a tasty scent
  • Easy to place on a hook
  • Can make multiple baits for smaller fish
  • Wiggle and twist hastily on the water
  • Not accessible in the daytime unless after heavy rainfall.

How are Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers Similar?

Typically, red worms and nightcrawlers are both earthworms, belonging to the same family of Lumbricidae. Besides, they have other similarities, including:

Good for composting


These types of worms play crucial roles in our ecosystem, particularly in the decomposition of organic wastes and improving soil quality. They ingest decaying plant matter or organic materials and convert them into nutrient-rich compost, known as worm castings. This process aids in soil density, water retention, and nutrition in plants.

Unique reproduction process

The reproductive processes of these worms are strikingly similar. They’re both hermaphroditic, meaning they possess both male and female reproductive organs. Because of this, they can mate with any other member of their species, increasing the chance of successful reproduction.

Tasty Morsel for fish


You can use either of these worms as effective bait when fishing. Their constant wiggles can attract all sorts of freshwater fish into your lure. Moreover, they’re easy to find and can stay alive and twist longer in water.

Red Wiggler vs Nightcrawler: How Are They Different?

The two most commonly encountered earthworm species are red worms and nightcrawlers. While they might look similar at first, they have distinct features that make them unique from each other. That said, let’s explore the differences between these two fascinating worms:



As their name implies, red wigglers are mostly reddish-brown or reddish-purple, with a slightly lustrous sheen on their skin. Meanwhile, nightcrawlers have a darker brown or grayish color. Their bellies are often paler with a slightly pinkish resemblance.



Another clear distinction between red worms vs nightcrawlers is their size. Red worms are relatively small, measuring around 2 to 3 inches and weighing about 0.5 to 0.8 grams.

On the other hand, nightcrawlers are larger, with an average length of 5 to 8 inches. You’ll even find some giant nightcrawlers up to 14 inches long. Their weight ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 kg.


Red wigglers are known for their rapid movement and ability to decompose organic materials quickly. They’re surface dwellers and prefer to stay close to the soil surface.

Unlike red wigglers, nightcrawlers are deep-burrowing worms. They create vertical tunnels in the soil, improving soil aeration and drainage. Also, they like to be active at night, feeding and mating above ground.

Eating behavior


If you think about greedy eaters living behind your feet, those are probably the red wigglers. These worms consume up to half of their body weight daily, eating decaying organic matter like leaves, fruits, vegetables, and manure.

Nightcrawlers feed on decomposing organic stuff, but they tend to eat less than red worms. They consume about a third of their body weight in one day, munching on decaying leaves, wood chunks, and other organic material.

Habitat Temperature


Generally, red wigglers favor warm, moist environments rich in decaying organic materials. They thrive in temperatures ranging from 70 to 80°F. Moreover, they flourish well in compost piles and vermicomposting bins.

Meanwhile, nightcrawlers are happiest in a slightly cooler and balanced environment, with temperatures ranging from 60 to 70°F. They can be found in gardens, lawns, and forests, where they can delve deeper into the soil.

Reproduction rate

If you want to grow more worms quickly, red wigglers are a great option. They can reproduce at a higher rate than nightcrawlers. Individual red worms can hatch multiple cocoons in 2-4 weeks, leading to rapid population growth.

Contrastingly, nightcrawlers have a slower pace of reproduction rate, producing fewer cocoons overall. In addition, their hatching time can be as long as 3 to 5 weeks. As a result, their population also grows gradually.

Which Makes a Cheaper Bait?


When it comes to baits, worms are generally the cheapest. In many cases, you don’t even have to spend a single dollar to have worm baits.

However, if you prefer to buy from tackle shops or online stores, you may find that their prices vary. Typically, red worms are cheaper than nightcrawlers. This is primarily because they’re smaller and reproduce rapidly, providing abundant supply.

If you want to save on cost, you can go outdoors on the driveways and sidewalks after a heavy downpour and collect nightcrawlers. You can also find red wigglers in your backyard, garden, or composting areas.

Likewise, you can grow your wormery and have a generous supply of worm baits. With little effort, live worm baits can be as cheap as you might think expensive!

Which is Better for Fishing?


If you’re a keen angler looking to use live worm baits, choosing between red wigglers vs nightcrawlers can be confusing. Both types of earthworms deliver results. However, using one after the other has its benefits and disadvantages.

Many anglers would go for nightcrawlers due to their larger size and versatility. Additionally, they’re more durable when hooked onto a fishing line, allowing them to stay on the lure longer, withstanding the attention of nibbling fish.

However, do note that red wigglers are also a valuable bait option if you’re pursuing smaller species. Moreover, they can be more readily available and easier to maintain as a bait source, especially if you have your composting systems.

Ultimately, your choice between the two will depend on your target fish species, availability of baits, and personal preferences. Alternatively, you can explore both worms and see which one works best in your situation.

Best Practices When Fishing With Live Worms

Whether you’re using nightcrawlers, red wigglers, or other worms from your garden, fishing with live worms requires similar techniques to become successful. Some tips to help you reel in a good catch include the following:

  • Keep the worm kicking long enough to entice nearby hungry fish.
  • Leverage live bait hooks, preferably the #4 ad # 8 sizes.
  • Thread the worm properly to avoid it falling off.
  • Use a worm injector to inflate the worm and keep it floating in the water.
  • Leave enough parts of the worm dangling and wiggling during a cast.
  • Focus on the bobber to see if a fish is nibbling on your lure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to find red wigglers in nature?

Due to their feeding habits, red wigglers are easier to find outdoors. You can see them digging in the dirt and gobbling on organic-rich areas in the forest, garden, or yard. If you’re not a clean freak, dig an area with decaying manure and you’ll likely find these wiggly fellows, too!

Can I use nightcrawlers or red wigglers for saltwater fishing?

Yes. Some saltwater fish are also attracted to a hearty worm meal. However, seawater is quite salty, so your worm may not live longer than it does in freshwater.

Instead of these worms, you may want to use bloodworms or sandworms. Bloodworms are effective and can attract all kinds of saltwater fish.

Are nightcrawlers or red wigglers better for catching catfish?

Since catfish are giant fish species, using nightcrawlers may be more effective than red wigglers. Nightcrawlers are more luscious and tend to squirm more actively in water, making them more attractive to catfish.

How do nightcrawlers reproduce?

Like red wigglers, nightcrawlers are hermaphrodites. They have both male and female reproductive organs. During reproduction, two worms exchange sperm by joining a clitellum (a band below the head that’s crucial for reproduction). Afterward, the worms form cocoons with fertilized eggs, which will hatch into baby worms.

Do plastic worms entice fish like real worms?

Many anglers also use plastic worms as alternatives to live worms. However, the experience may not be the same as using live worms. Besides their natural wiggles, live worms release a strong scent that attracts fish to bite.

Final Thoughts

Eventually, your choice between red wigglers vs nightcrawlers in fishing (and composting) relies on your preference, target fish, and the availability of worms in your area. Whether you’re creating your wormery or planning a fishing adventure with worm baits, it’s best to consider the similarities and differences between these worms.

Once you understand their distinct traits and behavior, you’ll be able to pick the best worm for your purpose. This way, you’ll relish a remarkable experience in your fishing or composting endeavor!

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