Many anglers consider live bait fishing to be the ideal way to catch large fish. Historically, the most popular forms of live bait are slugs, earthworms, or nightcrawlers, minnows, crustaceans like crawfish or shrimp, and other insects.
As with all types of bait and lure selection, it’s important to consider which fish you’re after, so you can best mimic their natural preferences for prey and drop your line in the water at the right time of day when that particular species of fish typically eats.
You should also know which types of live bait to steer clear of, as there are often some properties to certain live bait that we may not notice, like the smell, for example, that could potentially ward off your target catch.
In this article, we explore how to fish with slugs as bait.
Are Slugs a Good Choice for Bait?
In order to determine if slugs are a viable bait option, let’s first start with the obvious. Does your target fish eat slugs as part of its natural diet? For most types of freshwater fish, the answer is probably yes. Slugs and fish often share the same habitats in river, lake, or pond ecosystems, so it is reasonable that they are part of the fish’s natural diet.
On the other hand, if you’re fishing far off the coast of Florida for saltwater deep-sea fish, a terrestrial slug will probably go unnoticed. However, they can be effective for certain saltwater species.
Are Slugs Poisonous to Some Types of Fish?
There is much debate on whether slugs are poisonous or otherwise unappetizing to fish, and the answer is simple: it depends. It depends on the type of fish and the type of slug.
Banana slugs, for example, are a large variety, and their mucus has been known to deter birds, dogs, and other small animals from eating them. Banana slugs, for this reason, would probably not be suitable bait for fishing unless the target fish was quite large. Common gray garden slugs are a better option.
What is the Difference Between a Snail and a Slug?
One of the main differences between snails and slugs is the presence or absence of a shell. Snails have a hard, spiral-shaped shell on their back, which provides protection and support.
Slugs do not have a visible external shell like snails do.
Which Types of Freshwater Fish Eat Slugs?
In order to understand which types of freshwater fish prefer slugs as part of their diet, you need to consider where slugs and fish cohabitate. Slugs need a moisture-rich environment, with humidity rates approaching 80%. This is commonly found in grassy areas, where slugs are known to emerge in large numbers after recent rain.
It can also be found in freshwater marine biomes, like ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. In these circumstances, slugs often fall into the water from tree limbs or overhangs above the water or near the banks.
Common fish species in these freshwater biomes include bass, carp, walleye, catfish, rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout. While more predatory, fish-eating species like pike will not usually eat very small insects like slugs, filter feeders like carp and catfish will gladly do so.
What’s more, slugs are the perfect size for smaller bass and panfish (bluegill, sunfish, crappie, and perch). If a fish is too small, like a minnow, the slime excreted by a slug in distress will potentially act as a cumbersome deterrent to eating a slug.
As a rule of thumb, scavenger or filter feeder type fish, which comprise a large share of freshwater fish popular among anglers, are generally opportunistic hunters that will at least take a bite of anything they perceive to be potential prey.
Simply put, they are not picky eaters. Other, larger more predatory fish like pike and salmon will probably prefer larger prey, like other, smaller fish nearby.
Do Saltwater Fish Eat Slugs?
While slugs are not commonly associated with being a primary food source for most saltwater fish, some saltwater species may consume slugs.
Slugs can be effective bait for flounder, especially when fishing in estuaries, flats, or coastal areas where flounder are commonly found.
Sea trout, wrasse, and triggerfish may also consume slugs if they are present in their environment.
Where Do Slugs Live?
If you’re looking to find slugs for bait, there are several places you can try:
- Gardens: Slugs are commonly found in gardens, particularly in areas with lush vegetation and moisture. Check around plants, under leaves, and in damp soil.
- Forested Areas: Look under logs, rocks, and fallen leaves. Explore the forest floor and areas with decaying organic matter.
- Moist and Shaded Locations: This includes spots near bodies of water, such as streams, ponds, and marshes.
When collecting slugs for bait, handling them with care is important. Use gloves or a small tool to pick them up, as some slugs may release slime or mucus irritating the skin.
What Do You Use to Bait a Slug?
One way to bait a slug is by hooking it directly onto a fishing hook. You can use a small, sharp hook that is appropriate for the size of the slug.
Another technique involves using a bait threader or loop to secure the slug onto the hook. A bait threader is a small tool with a fine wire or loop at one end. With this method, you insert the bait threader or loop through the slug’s body from the tail end, creating a loop or opening.
Then, pass the fishing hook through the loop or opening, pull the bait threader or loop out, and gently remove it, leaving the slug securely attached to the hook.
How to Bait a Slug for Fishing
When you’re baiting your hook using a slug, it’s important to know the anatomy of a slug. Typical slugs have a saddle-like apparatus on the dorsal side of their mid-back, known as a mantle.
This is the ideal place to thread the hook, mainly because it will provide enough structural support to keep the slug on the hook while also promoting enough movement to attract nearby fish.
Check this video for detailed instructions on where to find slugs and how to use them as fish bait.
To Sum Up
Slugs are a great low-cost, sustainable option for live freshwater fishing bait. Most slug varieties are non-poisonous and totally palatable to indiscriminate insect hunters like freshwater fish.
While there are likely better options for larger targets, most amateur anglers can catch sizeable bass and other common lake fish using nothing more than a rod, reel, line, hook, and live slug.
Some local bait shops will carry slugs, but if yours doesn’t have them, try poking around in your backyard in moist areas or after a rainstorm. Slugs can be found for free under rocks, on trees, or on your lawn.