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Maggots and How To Make The Most Of Them - by Keith Speer

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Maggots and How To Make The Most Of Them

By Keith Speer​

Maggots were for a very long time the favourite bait for most anglers, nearly every angler would use them on a regular basis and they were the first line of attack for most anglers. The modern angler can now use a much more hi tech, high in nutrient approach and while both Boilies and Pellets have a place in modern angling the humble maggot can still prove to be effective and even more deadly if used to its best advantage.

There are three basic types of Maggot ; Squat, Pinkie and Maggot.


Squat is a very small maggot that can be used in several interesting ways, for catching very small fish on very light gear as one might in a particularly hard match in the depth of winter or as an addition to ground bait to start fish picking and looking for possibly tastier morsels, Squat has the singular quality that once in the water it will just lie on the bottom motionless and will not dig into the silt or gravel as Maggot and Pinkie can do.


Pinkie is smaller than Maggot but slightly bigger than Squat and is often used in conjunction with Squat as a hook bait while feeding Squat. Squat and Pinkie are favourites with Match anglers as they are a super bait for scratching for small fish such as Gudgeon, Bleak or Small Roach, alternatively if used with a light ground bait feed a sizable bag of Skimmers or proper Bream can be achieved in quick time.


Countless trillions of Maggots have been put in our rivers and lakes, fish know what they are and they like them, there is not a species of freshwater fish that has not been caught on Maggots, some I will grant you only very rarely but some species can be induced to feed in a frenzy, I have seen Barbel nosing a house brick to one side just to get see if there are any Maggots underneath it,. If fed properly Maggots can produce the sort of feeding that makes your mouth water, even so they are expensive and can be difficult to keep but with a little effort you can improve your bait, keep it longer and improve your chances by enhancing that which you have already paid for.

Maggots are a living bait and while you would think that one Maggot is the same as another a quick study of the bait can give you some useful information. When you buy your pint of Maggots they should have a black structure which is easily visible as you look at the grub, this is the stomach and contains the remains of the last feed, you can age a Maggot using this spot, as the Maggot gets older the spot reduces in size until it disappears, it is at this stage that the Maggot pupates into a Caster.


Dave Currell with a 29lb Carp taken on Maggots in the 2007 VAC Carp Match​

Maggots can be bred on any number of carcasses from Cattle and Sheep, to Chickens and Fish and indeed where they are bred will affect what they are like, Maggots bred on Beef tend to be tougher of skin while those bred on Fish can be softer and more watery, most that you get from tackle shops these days are bred on Chicken carcases.

The meat is hung in a shed and the Blow Flies are allowed to lay their eggs, as you can imagine this is in a very controlled environment where only one species of fly is allowed near to the meat, in the case of Maggots it is a specially bred 'pet' Bluebottle. Once the carcases are 'blown' the eggs develop into grub's that eat only until they reach their full size, the maggots then drop into a sawdust pan where they are collected and shipped off to the Tackle shop.

Once at the shop they must be riddled and then added to fresh sawdust before being placed in a refrigerator, Maggot is supplied in gallon containers, often the Brownian motion of 32,000 Maggots (there are roughly 4,000 Maggots to a pint) will create a lot of heat so a quick way to cool them down would be to splash a handful of water in each gallon container, once they have been given a drink it is into the fridge with them.

Prior to sale the Maggots are again riddled and it is at this point that all the waste like bits of feather small bones ect are removed, this often required repeat riddling before being placed into a fresh pan of sawdust. The Maggots are again riddled and then Maize meal is added to give the dusty fresh effect that you see at point of sale. Maggot lasts longer if it is kept cold so it is always a balancing act to keep them cool enough that they last longer and warm enough to be riddled. Maggot looks better when kept in Maize meal but in fact they sink better and are less greasy if kept in sawdust, also sawdust makes the skin tougher, so you pays your money and......!

Once you have purchased your Maggots the best thing to do is keep them in a refrigerator but often after a day fishing the Maggots can become greasy and smelly and can be a bit warm, many anglers throw them away thinking they are not worth keeping but if you are careful and are prepared to put in a little effort then you will never waste another Maggot again.

What you will need is a cat litter tray (two is better) and a large riddle; mine was a fiver, an old towel, a bag of sawdust, an atomiser to spray water, a brush from a dustpan set and a thin sheet of plastic that when wobbled makes you think of Rolf Harris .


Cat litter tray and a Maggot Riddle.​

Take the old smelly Maggot and riddle off the old dust by simply moving the riddle vigorously and pouring a small amount of Maggot on to the riddle, the dust will fall through and the Maggot will bounce around on the riddle, pour the Maggot into the cat litter tray, keep this up until all of the Maggot is sieved, then give them a spray from the atomiser to cool them down. If the Maggot is smelly simply wash it, we know that the Maggot has eaten so obviously it will also need to excrete, what it excretes is a Ammonia solution (it is this smell that the Blow flies often home in on, not the smell of rotten meat, Maggot much prefers to eat fresh meat that is just turning than meat that is already rotting), to remove this Ammonia pour fresh water into the cat litter tray with the Maggots and swirl them about in the water, drain the water by pouring the Maggots into the riddle. Dump several handfuls of fresh sawdust into the cat litter tray and add the wet Maggots mix the two together and then sieve off the wet sawdust as previously described until the Maggot is dry, add fresh sawdust and place in the refrigerator.

In winter you may get away with taking your maggots away on several outings and they can last for up to 5 weeks if you keep them properly Chilled.


If maggot is a classy bait then Caster is the Rolls Royce of baits. Match men often refer to "Caster Fish" what they mean is that Caster will very often out perform maggot by producing the bigger fish. You may have to wait a little longer but the rewards can be much the greater. My favourite fishing of all is when I am on a river fishing for BIG roach and I will very rarely go to the river without at least 1 pint of Caster, preferably two.

Caster is expensive but you could produce Caster for free from the old Maggot that you were going to throw away, this is how you do it. Old Maggot will eventually start to turn, when you see the tell tale signs of the odd Caster in your Maggot, clean the maggot by riddling and adding fresh sawdust, this time add about half as much sawdust again as you would if you were going fishing, then if you are not going fishing for a few days, say 4-5, fridge the Maggot down really cold. If you are going to fish in three days time take the Maggot pot and keep it open in room temperature say 20-23 degrees C and let them turn. As the Maggot turns, riddle the maggot three times a day and keep the Caster in either a plastic bag with a little air in it, or, a Drennan bait box with a layer of wet newspaper covering the caster tightly and the lid in place, it does not matter that the caster is all very light in colour in fact it is a positive advantage as you can then expose them to air and let them darken down to your preferred colour, but you must keep riddling regularly.


2lb 8oz Roach taken on Castors​

Once all the Caster is turned (or enough for you to fish with) have a good look at them. If you are lucky, they will be clean, fresh looking Caster varying in colour from a light colour similar to maggot to a rich ruby colour. However, if they have some skins and detritus in them you will have to "bounce" them.

Pour the caster into a bowl of cold water and swish them about. Don't leave them in the water, Caster is a "live" bait, do not consider it "dead" just because it doesn't move anymore. A minute or so is enough, then pour the mixture through your sieve by which time the water should have gone a dirty grey colour. Now comes the tricky bit. Spread a handful on one end of the plastic wobble board, lift that end and lightly tap the board behind the Casters. They should "bounce" down the plastic board leaving the skins stuck to the plastic. Wipe off the old skins with the dust pan brush that had been dipped in water to make the board surface wet and do it again and again until they are all done. Next, pour your Casters into the old towel and slowly rub them around, (you can use some kitchen towel as well). Be careful not to burst any. At this stage you can remove by hand the last of the skins and dead maggot. Once they are dry, place them in a plastic bag with a little air in it (remember they are still alive) and pop them in the fridge.

Caster prepared in this way will last a week as long as you open up the bag and give them a shake to refresh the air supply once a day. One last point about maggots, for many years I travelled to either Denmark or Holland for an annual fishing holiday. We always took our own bait with us and this usually involved taking several gallons of maggots on an overnight ferry. Keeping maggots cool in these conditions is a real pain. We tried every way imaginable to transport our bait in a way that meant it arrived fresh and usable and able to last for a week. Many is a time we smiled as we watched maggots crawl up the sides of the ferry car deck. Escapees from yet another failed maggot transport system. One set of anglers even transported maggots in pillow cases hanging outside the vehicle. I think they believed the flow of air as the vehicle moved would keep the maggot cool...........amazing!!!

In the end, we found the perfect method, we obtained some ten gallon polystyrene containers. These containers were made up of a polystyrene oblong box with a polystyrene lid. Inside the box we put a thick plastic bag filled with ten gallons of maggots that had been chilled down to almost freezing. Once the maggot was in the bag, the bag was sealed tight with NO excess air in the bag, (essentially we were depriving the almost frozen maggots of any air). The lid was then taped in place to allow no air into the box and to seal it totally. This was done at the last minute prior to going abroad.

When you get to your destination (anything up to 2 days later) open the box and take out the maggots. Distribute them into several containers and keep moving them to let the air get around all the maggots. It might take the best part of the day but amazingly the "dead" maggots will come to life. What is more you will find you have a 95-95% survival rate. Once the maggot is moving, riddle it to remove and dead maggot or skins and add fresh sawdust, this done you will have perfect bait for when you start fishing. I have now done this for several years and this method of transport works a treat.

I hope this has been of use. Maggots were and still are a deadly bait that should not be ignored, in point of fact in this day and age with so much pellet being used Maggot can provide a deadly change of bait that can produce spectacular results.

Tight Lines

Keith Speer
May 2010
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