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Are Crickets good for Fishing?
Crickets make great feeder insects for your reptiles and chickens, but did you know that they also make great treats for your pet fish? Owners of Oscars, South American cichlids, and African butterflyfish have all recommended live crickets as feed.
Crickets can also be used as live bait for fishing. Some anglers have found that crickets are great bait for some fish, acting as a substitute for worms. The following article will go into detail about using crickets as live bait for fishing, how to hook them, and which fish to avoid. Although all of the crickets supplied by the Critter Depot are house crickets and banded crickets, fish will not be able to tell them apart from those found in the wild.
Why Use Crickets for fishing?
Likely due to their perceived hassle, crickets are often overlooked by many as fishing bait for more conventional choices (e.g., worms and minnows). Despite this, crickets are a staple in the diet of many fishes, especially during the warmer months, such as late summer and early autumn. Although crickets can appear nearly everywhere, grasshoppers are usually found in open fields and meadows. Both crickets and grasshoppers can accidentally jump into streams and ponds during evasion from predators or on windy days. They can also fall into the water as a result of bank disturbances and runoff. Because of this, crickets and grasshoppers usually end up in the water more often than most other terrestrial insects, making them natural prey for many fish species.
Less Expensive than Worms
In addition to being a natural prey for many species of fish, crickets are advantageous financially when compared to nightcrawlers. Worms can be difficult to find in the wild, requiring you to search the ground at dusk, but they can also be a costly investment. For example, 150 nightcrawlers (earthworms) cost about $30 on Amazon, which equates to 20¢ per worm. This is compared to 250 crickets from the Critter Depot for $21, which is about 12¢ for each cricket (shipping included). Besides cost, crickets are also incredibly easy to rear, allowing you to have even more bait during the fishing season.
Crickets are also easily transported since they are compact and do not require a medium like nightcrawlers. You can transport your live crickets in any manner you please, but make sure that it is properly ventilated. A plastic bottle with some holes is likely the easiest method since the slender neck prevents multiple individuals from being dumped out or jumping away. Avoid keeping your crickets in direct sunlight or directly on ice, both will create extreme temperatures that will cause them to die. Try to store your crickets at temperatures of 25°C.
There are many ways of rearing crickets, and for more information check out our video on breeding crickets. Of course, anglers interested in using them for fishing bait do not need to require extensive equipment. If you only want crickets for the fishing season, you can raise crickets in metal cans with sand (this is important since this is where female crickets lay their eggs). Ideally, you would use containers with depths of 18–24 inches, but you may also consider using #10 cans. With a height of 7” and a diameter of 6¼” inches, cans of this size are ideal for small-scale cricket rearing.
James Davis of Texas A&M says that a maximum of four crops (generations) of crickets can be raised in a can without cleaning or restocking. He also says that in a 2 ft. container, roughly 400 crickets will be reared every three months; of course, cans that are smaller or larger will produce insects that proportionally more or less. For more information about raising crickets, be sure to check out our YouTube video.
Which Fish Eat Crickets?
If you are interested in freshwater fish, you will find that most will consume crickets. Fish you rear as bait (e.g., fathead minnows, golden shiners, creek chub, and white suckers) can eat crickets, as insects are a natural part of their diet. Baitfish are small, so you might need to feed them younger crickets (first, second, and third instar). Be aware that not all freshwater fish will eat crickets, as much of their interest will depend upon age. As Eric Matechak from Freshwater Fishing Advice says, “Even the mightiest of freshwater fish like muskies, pike, flathead catfish, and striped bass start their lives consuming small insects, tiny fish, and plankton.” It is important to note that when using crickets, you might attract fingerlings in some species, not adults. Crickets can be floated on the surface or sunk for deeper fishing.
For those interested, some fish that have been successfully caught using crickets are bream, bluegill, crappie (black and white), panfish, trout, and yellow perch; to name a few. Of course, you might find increased success with cricket bait with some fish over others. For bluegill fishing, the use of crickets as bait is as good as using worms, just remember that bluegills like feeding on the surface during the summer. According to James Davis, crickets are considered one of the most effective baits for sunfish, and many anglers swear by crickets as sunfish bait. Best Fishing in America says that bluegill and sunfish are the most common fish in waters across North America, living in ponds, weedy bays, backwaters, and slow-moving rivers and streams. If you are an angler, put away those worms and go for crickets instead!
Although using crickets seems to be most effective during the summer, they can be great bait year-round for yellow perch and crappie. Crickets have also been effectively used in late autumn for brook trout and even during the winter for winter panfish and trout. James Davis also recommends using crickets as bait for catfish, but Eric Matechak contests this. His experience was that you may only occasionally catch bullhead catfish using crickets, making this bait not his first choice for this fish.
If you are angling for trout, try using crickets since this species seems to be attracted to them. Trout naturally eat grasshoppers when they fall into streambeds, and because they look so much like crickets, trout cannot tell them apart. We recommend using crickets as bait for brook, brown, cutthroat, and rainbow trout. Always make sure your crickets are alive and wiggling so they draw the trout’s attention.
If you are considering going bass fishing with crickets as bait, Eric Matechak says not to bother. The general diet of bass is crustaceans and smaller fish, not insects. Of course, diet is species-specific and bass are known to eat about anything. For example, white and yellow bass are known to eat small insects. Experience is the best teacher and generally, if you catch a bass using crickets, you are likely only going to wrangle in a small one. If you are angling for largemouth bass, you should use lures or larger baits like minnows or frogs.
Crickets can be used as bait year-round, but most find success in the months when insects are most active, which are in the late spring, summer, and early autumn. Although you will always find one species of fish that will bite, the true challenge is ensuring that you have enough crickets for bait. This is because crickets are not always available in the wild, meaning that the seasons play a factor. James Davis gives time ranges for crickets, usually abundant in early summer and late in the fall, being found under piles of decaying plants in the garden, in the lawn, or around the edge of a field. As winter approaches, it will be harder to find crickets since many will either be dead or begin the overwintering process (hibernation). Even in seasons when crickets are most active, they can be hard to find and catch. As a test, when you hear a cricket chirping, try sneaking up on one—you will find that they stop the closer you get! Unless you are truly dedicated to the hunt, you should purchase live crickets from the Critter Depot to use as live bait.
How to Hook a Cricket
Without a doubt, the greatest challenge to using crickets as bait is hooking them. Unlike nightcrawlers, crickets can escape. This is because crickets, like all orthopterans (crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and lubbers) have saltatorial legs, which are designed for jumping and springing. You can see this from their disproportionately developed hind femurs (femora). In addition to this, when you hook a cricket you pierce its exoskeleton, which will eventually lead to death—for an angler, this means loss of motion. The location of hooking crickets matters since you want them to be alive and wiggle for the fish to be attracted to them. Be warned, however, that once pierced with a hook, your insect will not live long.
Insects are divided into three segments: head, thorax, and abdomen. The optimal spot to secure a firm hold is to hook your cricket through its thorax, ideally through the pronotum; this is the thickened collar directly posterior to the head. Since the underbelly of the insect is not as hardened, run the hook through this area. An insect’s thorax is analogous to our torso and is the center segment to which the legs and wings attach. Hooking through the head will immediately kill your bait while hooking through the abdomen increases the chance of tearing the insect off your hook. Even if you have hooked them in the appropriate place, be sure to cast the line gently when using crickets because you might tear them apart.
It is possible to bait a cricket without hooking it, but that requires a special bait thread. To do this, you would tie the cricket around the hook. Of course, this can be cumbersome to do on such a small creature that will make every effort to jump away. You might also end up pulling their legs off in the process or crushing it with the thread; defeating the point of using live bait. There is the added factor that too much thread could spook the fish. For your and your bait’s sake, it is just better to pierce them with a hook.
Although all cricket stages can be used for bait, ideal bait crickets should be in the later instars (fourth and fifth) as they will be large enough for fish to spot and for you to hook without tearing apart. James Davis believes that the best crickets for baits are adults, as they will remain the same size for a few months. Adult crickets are recognized by the presence of long wings which cover the rear of the body; juvenile crickets do not have these, rather they have wing nubs.
If you are considering buying canned crickets for fishing bait, bear in mind that fishing with live bait is more effective. Most anglers will always recommend live bait over ones that are either dead or artificial if given a choice. That said, live crickets are not perfect and they can be a total hassle to deal with.
Disadvantages of Crickets as Bait
Now that we have explained the benefits of using crickets as bait, it is only fair to discuss their disadvantages. Not all fish will take to crickets since they are not part of the diet for every fish, such as pike or bass. Some issues may arise during baiting. Eric Matechak says that crickets can be hard to handle without crushing, and some anglers say that they die almost as soon as you bait them. Lastly, crickets can be difficult to acquire, especially in the wild.
We cannot assist you with handling crickets or their longevity after baiting, but we at the Critter Depot can supply you with crickets and provide information about raising them so you do not need to worry about numbers. Also, because crickets are a natural part of many fish diets, it might be advantageous to use this bait as a rare treat. So give crickets a try this fishing season and let us know how they worked out for you in the comment section below!
Davis, J. T. 1977. L-1311, Raising crickets for fish bait. Texas A&M University.
Booth, D. T., & K. Kiddell. 2007. Temperature and the energetics of development in the house cricket (Acheta domesticus). J. Insect Physiol. 53(9): 950–953.
Contributing Writer. No Date. Fishing for Bluegill and Sunfish: Simple Techniques and Tips. Best Fishing in America.
Matechak, E. No Date. Are Crickets Good Fishing Bait? These Fish Say YES. FreshwaterFishingAdvice.
Fortey, I. 2021. What Do Bass Eat? Boat Safe.
Meeker, A. 2022. What do Bass Eat? Supreme Guide on Choosing the Right Bait. Bass Forecast.
No Author. No Date. What Do Basses Eat? (Diet, Care & Feeding Tips). American Tarantula & Animals. <https://www.atshq.org/what-do-basses-eat/>
Marsh, J. 2011. Terrestrial Insects: (Grasshoppers, Ants, Beetles, etc). Fly Fishing Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Pintar, S. No Date. How to Fish With Crickets? Guide to Crickets Fishing! Slo-Fishing.
No Author. 2007. What Fish Would Like Small Crickets. Tropical Fish Forums.