Catalpa Worms Give a Strong Boost to Summer Fishing

By Arkansas Game and Fish

First posted on 07-18-2014

Two words can help Arkansas anglers shake off the mid-summer fishing blues: Catalpa worm.

Experienced anglers with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission agree that catalpa worms are superb for fishing in this area, especially for bream and catfish. Almost any species of bream – bluegill, red-eared and the others – go for catalpa worms. All three of our varieties of catfish – flatheads, blues and channels – go for catalpa worms. And largemouth bass go for them also.

Fishermen who use these green and black worms found only on, or under, catalpa trees, agree that the “juice” is the secret. The fluid that oozes for a cut or squeezed catalpa worm is highly appealing to fish, with bream liking it as much at catfish.

To use catalpa worms for fishing, first you get a supply of catalpa worms from catalpa trees. They are also for sale at some, not all, bait shops, and they can be ordered by mail as well.

Then two methods of using the black, green and yellow worms come into play. One, make a cut in the worm then put it on a hook. Bury the tip of the hook or leave it exposed – your choice.

Two, cut the worm in half and use something like a match stick to turn each half inside out. The result is a tough, leathery item that is juicy. Go to work with this on a hook.

Some bream fishermen like to cut catalpa worms into small sections and bait small hooks with the pieces.

One fisherman, perhaps with tongue in cheek, advises, “A real catalpa worm fishermen is the guy who bites the head off the worm so the juice oozes out. He doesn’t cut the worm.”

The catalpa worm is the larvae of the catalpa sphinx, a large member of the hawk moth group. The worms live only on catalpa trees, and they can strip a tree of its leaves. But this apparently rarely kills the trees.

The name catalpa is a mangling of Catawba, a tribe of Native Americans in the southeastern portion of the United States. They made use of the tree for several purposes, including the “beans” produced in the long seed pods of the tree.

The tree is more common close to rivers and wet areas, but it does well when planted in urban yards. Its large leaves and showy flowers make it attractive much of the year. However, some homeowners dislike it because of the mess left by the worms.

The catalpa caterpillar is tough in texture. The worm oozes a bright fluorescent green fluid that smells sweet when put on a hook. The tough skin makes for staying hooked and a fresh worm will attract fish with its smell and its wiggle. It is revered as the best fish bait to be found naturally.

Catalpa worms can be preserved alive by putting them and some cornmeal in an air-tight container and freeze them. Fishermen say that when the container is opened and the worms are removed from the meal, they thaw and become active and as effective in catching fish as ever.

Another method of saving the catalpa worms for future use is storing them in a small container baby food jar filled with corn syrup. The jar is stored in a refrigerator and has an indefinite shelf life.

Give catalpa worms a try. Ask around, find a tree, collect some of the worms and go fishing. They do catch fish.