What natural baits are people using in Maryland? It depends on whether you are fishing in fresh or salt water and what species of fish you are going after.
Worms are a prime choice for almost all fish, both fresh and salt water. You can buy them at a bait shop or a tackle shop. Or, you can just go out in your back yard. You should find plenty in a few shovels of dirt. Especially for smaller worms, pierce the hook through the side of their body in several places so they make kind of an S shape on the hook. You need a different strategy for bait stealing fish like sunfish. Take the worm and run it up the hook like you pull a sock up over your foot and leg. That way the hook is completely covered and it makes it very tough for the fish to steal the bait.
Leeches make great bait for most types of fish. They have a sucker and that is what you should put the hook through.
Insects – Grasshoppers and crickets make great bait but you can use almost any kind of water or land insect. Vary the size of the hook you use based on the size of the insect.
Minnows – Another great bait. Keep them in a bucket in the shade with cool water. Don’t crowd them or them or they will die. They will use up the oxygen in the water too quickly. Or you could replace the water periodically although this doesn’t tend to work as well. There are a variety of ways to hook a minnow including through the tail, the back, behind the head or the lips. If you do the lips, put the hook through the bottom lip first.
Minnows – Same as above
Worms – Similar to above for freshwater except that people tend to use sea worms instead of earth worms. Primarily the polychaetes known as blood worms.
Shellfish – Mollusks – Clams and mussels are very good for rockfish, drum, sea trout and perch. Naturally, take all the shell of and thread them on the hook. Worms are good for the fish mentioned as well.
Shellfish – Crustaceans – Shrimp – Put the hook through the tail or either live or dead shrimp. Another choice is to cut them up and skewer the pieces on the hook. Peel the shell if you do this.
Many people think chicken necks are the best bait for crabs. But for years the watermen have used salted eel on their trot lines. This was important because the eel was smooth and didn’t get tangled the way chicken necks would. But so many people have switched to crab traps or pots instead of trot lines that this doesn’t matter as much any more. Probably good for the eel who are being overfished.