Not every angler is out to try to get his name in the record book as someone who caught a trophy fish. Many fishermen are content to catch smaller fish for the action they provide and the potential many smaller species have as table fare. For example, perch and crappie, while typically less than 10 inches long, make excellent eating and are often present in large numbers, so you can catch many fish during an outing. The question then becomes what to use to catch them.
The night crawler is the type of bait that catches nearly every freshwater fish species and is especially effective for smaller fish. According to Learninghowtofish.com, night crawlers, while capable of enticing fish as large as bass and walleye, are effective for smaller fish like sunfish, rock bass and perch. Night crawlers are easy to obtain, either through your own efforts on damp warm evenings with a flashlight or at your closest bait shop. Anglers will fish night crawlers suspended under a bobber or present them on the bottom with the help of lightweight sinkers or split shot. Smaller species are quite adept at nibbling a large night crawler off the hook. By threading a very small section of a night crawler onto the hook's shaft and barely having it cover the point of the hook, you will find that you lose fewer worms and catch more small fish like pumpkinseeds, crappie and bluegill.
The fathead minnow is a baitfish that typically will not exceed 3 inches in length, with most considerably smaller. It makes this fish a solid option when you target smaller game fish like bluegill and crappie. Available at bait shops, fathead minnows will swim well and look natural in the water when hooked through the lips or through the area just behind the dorsal fin. Fathead minnows rigged on a hook and presented under a fishing float will be hard for hungry crappie, perch and bluegill to resist. An ice fisherman will also employ fathead minnows as she pursues the smaller fish that often travel in large schools. In many cases, the angler rigs the minnow on a hook under a device called a tip-up, but dropping it down on a small jigging rod through the ice also works well.
The larvae of assorted insects appeal to the smaller fish, with small-size trout, white perch, yellow perch, pumpkinseeds, black and white crappie and bluegill among them. One such bait is the wax worm, which is the larval stage of the wax moth. Wax worms are small, white and anglers will use them in different scenarios, especially when ice fishing. The wax worm presented alone on a hook or in combination with a tiny fishing jig always has the potential to produce bites. Larval bait, called spikes, is a larval stage of certain flies. Keeping this bait cold--in the range of 34 to 40 degrees--assures that it will not change into the adult fly. Anglers use spikes much the same as wax worms, alone or with a small lure. Grubs, a larval form of beetles, also attract small fish and are easy to find if you turn over old logs or break apart rotted stumps and trees. Larval baits are available at bait shops and you can order them through online sites as well.