Price of live bait — SoCal

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#1
I did some checking on the high price of live bait in SoCal and basically heard what I thought I might hear. Between Covid, that has seemed to slow some suppliers, and the cold weather back east (they're brought in from Maine), blood worms have been hard to come by and expensive. That's why they are $7.49-$7.99 a half dozen ($15.00-16.00 a dozen). Lug worms seem to be more steady and running about $7.99 a dozen but quality can vary from small to large worms. Ghost shrimp which were hard to get in the cold weather seem to be becoming more reliable and are also about $7.99 a dozen.

If I lived by the coast I would find my own worms and shrimp but it's hard for me. But, if you live in SoCal, learn how to get your own bait. It will save you a lot of money.
 
#2
Just want to chime in and say it's a good idea to get your own bait anywhere. Economics can be a factor, but it's really about self-reliance and one's own convenience. No waiting for baitshop hours or prices. Moreover, if you are an acolyte of Match The Hatch, the local bait you forage will be what the fish eat normally. There is amazing satisfaction in catching a fish on a bait you gathered. A sense of pride and achievement. The only thing that will top that is when you land your own fish. Now, that's fishing.
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#4
Bloodworms. These worms were, until recently, the most common live bait worms found in southern California bait shops. And, though less popular than pile worms in the north (and generally more expensive), they recently have been carried in some Bay Area bait shops.

Today they are harder to find and when found are rather expensive (as much as $12-15 a dozen). They are expensive because most are flown in from the northeastern states such as Maine where they are hand harvested from local bays and estuaries. Bait shops face increased shipping costs and the cost of unsold bait that dies. Meanwhile, bait companies have a twofold problem. They are faced with more and more state regulations (and sometimes moratoriums) on the worms and they have a harder time finding people willing to dig the worms. The result: higher wholesale and retail prices. Today, at least in SoCal, bloodworms have been replaced in most bait shops by lugworms, inferior bait in my opinion, but one that is less expensive and more readily available.

Whatever the cost, bloodworms are excellent bait for many, many fish including croaker, surfperch, bass, and jacksmelt and they are probably the best bait for several flatfish such as turbot and sole. They are even excellent bait for sheephead. Whether taste or color is the main attraction, many fish will readily grab a worm encrusted hook. Luckily, the bloodworms themselves have a somewhat strong casing that allows them to remain on the hook longer than softer bait.

As for the cost, anglers do have an option; they can dig their own local worms. More than 700 species of worms are found along California’s coast—bloodworms, pile worms, mussel worms, tube worms, slim worms, sand worms and many, many more, and most, depending upon size, make excellent bait. Most are found in estuarine habitats—the various bays, estuaries and mud flats but some are also found along the ocean shoreline. Digging in mud flats, in eelgrass beds, and under rocks, is a time-honored tradition for many. But, it does take time and effort so depending upon one’s job (opportunity cost) it may or make not make sense. For retirees working on their own time clock it can make perfect sense.

Bloodworms are found in genus glycera (annelid) meaning they are segmented worms, and all are members of the polychaete family of worms (bristleworms), a family containing thousands of different species. They are typically found on the bottom in shallow marine waters and are creamy pink in color with a pale skin that allows the hemoglobin to show through, hence the name bloodworms.

They are carnivorous and can extend a large proboscis (nose) that bears four hollow jaws connected to glands that contain venom used to kill their prey. Although it will not do any long-term damage, those same jaws can cause a painful bite to careless anglers. The worms can also squirt their red blood quite a distance so when cutting them for bait, or simply stringing them on a hook, it’s best to hold them out away from your clothing. I place them on cloth and try to block any blood from squirting on my clothes.

Because of the cost, and the fact that most bloodworms are sold in plastic bags (the worst thing to do since they quickly warm up in the sun), it is best to bring a small bait cooler with you when using this bait. If you are going to pay a top price for bait, keep it in top condition. When using the worms cut pieces (starting at the tail end) just a little longer than the hook. String the worm on the hook, make sure the barb is outside the worm, and leave a small segment just past the hook.

Considering their numbers, it’s a little surprising more anglers do not dig the worms themselves. In Between Pacific Tides, Joel W. Hedgpeth makes the following, somewhat startling, comment regarding Euzonus mucronata, a bloodworm found from Vancouver Island to Punta Banda in damp sand, and studied at a La Jolla beach. “The abundance of bloodworms on some beaches indicates the rich supply of nutrient material in sand that seems barren to us. McConnaughey and Fox estimated that a worm bed a mile long might contain 158 million worms, or 7 tons of them.”

An idea courtesy of Snookie: “if you have bloodworms left over at the end of the day put them in a bag with rock salt and freeze them. They will remain in amazingly good condition.”
 

evanluck

Well-known member
#5
Thanks for the detailed answer. I live pretty close to the mouth of the Santa Ana River. I will try digging there during low tide and report what I find. Honestly my opportunity cost feels to high for me to do this but I want to have the experience. I think it may make sense if I start to bring larger groups of friends. Seems like making the time to get the bait is the hardest part. Once you commit to getting it, it may start to make more economic sense if you can collect large amounts that you can actually use.

Bloodworms. These worms were, until recently, the most common live bait worms found in southern California bait shops. And, though less popular than pile worms in the north (and generally more expensive), they recently have been carried in some Bay Area bait shops.

Today they are harder to find and when found are rather expensive (as much as $12-15 a dozen). They are expensive because most are flown in from the northeastern states such as Maine where they are hand harvested from local bays and estuaries. Bait shops face increased shipping costs and the cost of unsold bait that dies. Meanwhile, bait companies have a twofold problem. They are faced with more and more state regulations (and sometimes moratoriums) on the worms and they have a harder time finding people willing to dig the worms. The result: higher wholesale and retail prices. Today, at least in SoCal, bloodworms have been replaced in most bait shops by lugworms, inferior bait in my opinion, but one that is less expensive and more readily available.

Whatever the cost, bloodworms are excellent bait for many, many fish including croaker, surfperch, bass, and jacksmelt and they are probably the best bait for several flatfish such as turbot and sole. They are even excellent bait for sheephead. Whether taste or color is the main attraction, many fish will readily grab a worm encrusted hook. Luckily, the bloodworms themselves have a somewhat strong casing that allows them to remain on the hook longer than softer bait.

As for the cost, anglers do have an option; they can dig their own local worms. More than 700 species of worms are found along California’s coast—bloodworms, pile worms, mussel worms, tube worms, slim worms, sand worms and many, many more, and most, depending upon size, make excellent bait. Most are found in estuarine habitats—the various bays, estuaries and mud flats but some are also found along the ocean shoreline. Digging in mud flats, in eelgrass beds, and under rocks, is a time-honored tradition for many. But, it does take time and effort so depending upon one’s job (opportunity cost) it may or make not make sense. For retirees working on their own time clock it can make perfect sense.

Bloodworms are found in genus glycera (annelid) meaning they are segmented worms, and all are members of the polychaete family of worms (bristleworms), a family containing thousands of different species. They are typically found on the bottom in shallow marine waters and are creamy pink in color with a pale skin that allows the hemoglobin to show through, hence the name bloodworms.

They are carnivorous and can extend a large proboscis (nose) that bears four hollow jaws connected to glands that contain venom used to kill their prey. Although it will not do any long-term damage, those same jaws can cause a painful bite to careless anglers. The worms can also squirt their red blood quite a distance so when cutting them for bait, or simply stringing them on a hook, it’s best to hold them out away from your clothing. I place them on cloth and try to block any blood from squirting on my clothes.

Because of the cost, and the fact that most bloodworms are sold in plastic bags (the worst thing to do since they quickly warm up in the sun), it is best to bring a small bait cooler with you when using this bait. If you are going to pay a top price for bait, keep it in top condition. When using the worms cut pieces (starting at the tail end) just a little longer than the hook. String the worm on the hook, make sure the barb is outside the worm, and leave a small segment just past the hook.

Considering their numbers, it’s a little surprising more anglers do not dig the worms themselves. In Between Pacific Tides, Joel W. Hedgpeth makes the following, somewhat startling, comment regarding Euzonus mucronata, a bloodworm found from Vancouver Island to Punta Banda in damp sand, and studied at a La Jolla beach. “The abundance of bloodworms on some beaches indicates the rich supply of nutrient material in sand that seems barren to us. McConnaughey and Fox estimated that a worm bed a mile long might contain 158 million worms, or 7 tons of them.”

An idea courtesy of Snookie: “if you have bloodworms left over at the end of the day put them in a bag with rock salt and freeze them. They will remain in amazingly good condition.”
Bloodworms. These worms were, until recently, the most common live bait worms found in southern California bait shops. And, though less popular than pile worms in the north (and generally more expensive), they recently have been carried in some Bay Area bait shops.

Today they are harder to find and when found are rather expensive (as much as $12-15 a dozen). They are expensive because most are flown in from the northeastern states such as Maine where they are hand harvested from local bays and estuaries. Bait shops face increased shipping costs and the cost of unsold bait that dies. Meanwhile, bait companies have a twofold problem. They are faced with more and more state regulations (and sometimes moratoriums) on the worms and they have a harder time finding people willing to dig the worms. The result: higher wholesale and retail prices. Today, at least in SoCal, bloodworms have been replaced in most bait shops by lugworms, inferior bait in my opinion, but one that is less expensive and more readily available.

Whatever the cost, bloodworms are excellent bait for many, many fish including croaker, surfperch, bass, and jacksmelt and they are probably the best bait for several flatfish such as turbot and sole. They are even excellent bait for sheephead. Whether taste or color is the main attraction, many fish will readily grab a worm encrusted hook. Luckily, the bloodworms themselves have a somewhat strong casing that allows them to remain on the hook longer than softer bait.

As for the cost, anglers do have an option; they can dig their own local worms. More than 700 species of worms are found along California’s coast—bloodworms, pile worms, mussel worms, tube worms, slim worms, sand worms and many, many more, and most, depending upon size, make excellent bait. Most are found in estuarine habitats—the various bays, estuaries and mud flats but some are also found along the ocean shoreline. Digging in mud flats, in eelgrass beds, and under rocks, is a time-honored tradition for many. But, it does take time and effort so depending upon one’s job (opportunity cost) it may or make not make sense. For retirees working on their own time clock it can make perfect sense.

Bloodworms are found in genus glycera (annelid) meaning they are segmented worms, and all are members of the polychaete family of worms (bristleworms), a family containing thousands of different species. They are typically found on the bottom in shallow marine waters and are creamy pink in color with a pale skin that allows the hemoglobin to show through, hence the name bloodworms.

They are carnivorous and can extend a large proboscis (nose) that bears four hollow jaws connected to glands that contain venom used to kill their prey. Although it will not do any long-term damage, those same jaws can cause a painful bite to careless anglers. The worms can also squirt their red blood quite a distance so when cutting them for bait, or simply stringing them on a hook, it’s best to hold them out away from your clothing. I place them on cloth and try to block any blood from squirting on my clothes.

Because of the cost, and the fact that most bloodworms are sold in plastic bags (the worst thing to do since they quickly warm up in the sun), it is best to bring a small bait cooler with you when using this bait. If you are going to pay a top price for bait, keep it in top condition. When using the worms cut pieces (starting at the tail end) just a little longer than the hook. String the worm on the hook, make sure the barb is outside the worm, and leave a small segment just past the hook.

Considering their numbers, it’s a little surprising more anglers do not dig the worms themselves. In Between Pacific Tides, Joel W. Hedgpeth makes the following, somewhat startling, comment regarding Euzonus mucronata, a bloodworm found from Vancouver Island to Punta Banda in damp sand, and studied at a La Jolla beach. “The abundance of bloodworms on some beaches indicates the rich supply of nutrient material in sand that seems barren to us. McConnaughey and Fox estimated that a worm bed a mile long might contain 158 million worms, or 7 tons of them.”

An idea courtesy of Snookie: “if you have bloodworms left over at the end of the day put them in a bag with rock salt and freeze them. They will remain in amazingly good condition.”
 

Ken Jones

Administrator
Staff member
#6
As said, the opportunity cost can be too high. Depending upon the type of job, and the money you are making per hour, it can make more sense for some to keep working and simply buy the bait. If you can make $50 on a job versus the time to dig bait and save $15, it seems logical to buy the bait. But, as you say, you are missing the experience and fun of finding your own bait. For a person like myself who is retired it makes considerable sense pumping ghost shrimp and digging for worms.