How to Keep Leeches Alive – Storing Leeches for Fishing Bait

In this article we will teach you how to keep leeches alive because storing leeches for fishing bait correctly is a must to improve your catch rate. Follow the steps carefully and your leeches will be in great condition for an awesome time fishing.

How to keep leeches alive for fishing?

Leeches are attracted to clean water. Always ensure that they are submerged in clean water. 

As a result, finding natural water is critical for leeches. Unchlorinated water is ideal for leeches; that is why chlorinated water is highly toxic to leeches and can kill them all.

Individually store leeches. Apart from using clean water, it’s safe to hold leeches in separate containers before using them as bait. As a result, for a single leech, 250 mL of clean water would suffice. So, make sure you have enough space to store your leeches separately.

If space is limited, two leeches can be used to make a single unit. More than two leeches per container are not recommended since stuffed leeches can destroy each other. It’s also difficult to breed safe leeches.

Make sure your leeches are well fed. A blood meal is a perfect food for leeches. The best blood meal can be found at fish bait shops. If not, look for the best leech treatment websites and order your leech feeds there.

The best conditions for leeches are when the temperature is just right. The optimal temperature for leeches is one that is below 77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

How do you ensure that the right temperatures are maintained? It would be beneficial if you kept the leech storage container in a cool place. The safest option is to store it in a refrigerator.

This is crucial as well. It’s important to cover the top of the container where your leeches are kept. However, make sure the container has small perforations that allow enough air to circulate while keeping the leeches from escaping.

How to keep leeches in an aquarium?

  1. Purchase a glass tank with a minimum capacity of 12 gallons (1.9 L). Purchase a fish tank from a nearby pet or fish shop. Leeches are excellent at living in close quarters; about 50 will live happily in a gallon of water (3.8 L). This, however, is dependent on the form of leech and the climate in which it was born. In general, a 10 gallon (38 L) aquarium can accommodate up to 50 leeches. One to two pond leeches per gallon is ideal.
  1. Fill the tank 75 percent of the way full, fill the fish tank with water from a pond or stream. Allowing some space at the top of the tank to stay free provides a barrier that prevents leeches from escaping. 
  1. Using spring water, dechlorinated tap water, or water from a storage site whenever possible. Never use filtered or chlorinated water; the former is detrimental to the leeches’ metabolic equilibrium, while the latter contains potentially harmful substances such as copper and chlorine. 
  1. Make sure the water is cool and free of contaminants. Fill a tub halfway with tap water and set it aside for 1 to 2 days to remove chlorinate. You’re ready to go once the chlorine scent has faded. You can also purchase a water de-chlorinator from a home hardware store.
  1. To keep your leeches from escaping, put them in the tank and cover them with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the leeches into the tank slowly. If you just have a handful, you can use forceps to put them in one by one. 
  1. Often use a tight-fitting cap, such as a panel lid, to cover the top of your tank. Leeches will lengthen their bodies and squeeze through tiny gaps, so always close the lid.

Leeches can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and can live in water that is anywhere from 40 to 50 degrees, though 40 to 45 seems to suit most of the best. If you replace their dirty water or top off the tank with fresh, it’s best to use water that’s as close as possible to the leeches’ current environment, so you don’t shock them too much.

Where Can I Find Leeches?

Leeches can be found almost anywhere on the globe. 

Leeches come in hundreds of different varieties of species. Although some leeches live in oceans or moist soil on land, the majority of leeches tend to live in shallow bodies of freshwater. 

They can be found in almost every body of water. Leeches can be found in a variety of places, from small ponds to large reservoirs.

Leeches have also been commonly seen near small pockets of water, ponds in the park, as well as rivers, streams, and lakes. 

Terrestrial leeches can also be found in rain forests. Leeches often prefer to inhabit areas with underwater weeds, submerged roots, or other debris to cling to or hide within. 

As a result, swimming in shallow waters and in areas free of plants and litter will reduce the chances of being bitten by a leech.

In wet rain forests, land leeches are common on the ground or in low foliage. They can be found on the field in seepage moistened areas in drier forests. Most people don’t go near water and can’t swim, but they can live for short periods of time.

In dry weather, some species burrow into the soil, where they can live for months even though the atmosphere is completely devoid of water. The body is dry and rigid, the suckers are undetectable, and the skin is totally dry in these conditions. 

These leeches emerge completely active after just ten minutes of being sprayed with a few drops of water.

Freshwater leeches prefer still or slowly flowing rivers, but specimens have been found in fast-moving streams.

Can Leeches Make Great Fishing Baits?

Yes, Leeches are one of the best live baits since they are easy to breed and can be kept alive for longer. 

Because of their wiggly motions, leeches are also appealing to fish. As a result, fish can quickly find them under the water and jump on them. If you’re looking for great bait, leeches are a great choice. 

The earthworm is a close relative of the leech and a very product and widely used bait. But it should only be used during the hours of the night, as any other fish in the water can devour them within minutes of casting out.

This is where the leech shines, as it can be fished throughout the day without attracting the attention of all the tiny fish nibbling and pecking at it.

Fish eat a variety of leeches, but the ribbon leech is the most commonly used as bait. A ribbon leech has a firmer body than a horse leech and fewer pronounced body circumstances or grooves, with a color range of pure black to light brown.

Walleyes eat leeches almost all year, and they’re considered a universal walleye lure. Some of the best smallmouth bass anglers have discovered that regular-sized leeches attract more fish and catch bigger fish. 

When smallmouth bass and walleye are in the shallows, a bobber and leech are very successful. This rig is suitable for larger bass from late spring to early summer.

How Long Can Leeches Survive Under Water?

A leech can live from 2–8 years as they are also capable of living underwater. 

They will be able to survive safely underwater. Leeches are very easy to use as live bait for someone who likes their fishing with natural baits. However, you must first learn how to keep leeches alive in order to fish with them. 

Leeches lack gills and lungs and instead breathe through their skin. Although aquatic leeches can swim in a ribbon-like pattern or crawl by looping, land leeches travel over solid surfaces by contracting and expanding their muscles.

How to store leeches in warm weather

To many folks, It’s a little unsettling to find crawlers in the fridge next to the cottage cheese. 

When leeches are important to you, however, you don’t have much choice. For the squeamish, an opaque container might be preferable to a see-through one.

The best way to care for a crawler is to start at home. The best is to order crawlers in foam boxes with bedding that can be put directly in the refrigerator and tested on a regular basis. Temperatures between 40 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal. 

If it gets too hot, the crawlers can eat too much and foul the bedding. Turn the box upside down and inspect them every few days.

At home, lake water refrigerated in a milk jug is the safest way to care for leeches. This way, when you adjust their water — which should be done every couple of days — the temperature is the same as the leeches are used to. 

Snacking is prohibited. “Trying to feed leeches is the worst thing you can do,” Fisher says, “because you add acidity that will make them sick or foul the water.” If lake water isn’t accessible or impractical, use well water or treat tap water with a de-chlorinator (available at pet stores) and keep it cool in the fridge until required.

On the boat, one storage method is to keep leeches in a Tupperware with holes (small ones, of course) sliced on the top and place the container atop the ice. Adding cubes is advisable if it’s necessary to cool them. 

Pputting chunks of ice into the water of a much larger styrofoam bucket, the leeches will stay relatively healthy longer. Depending on the water temperature, leeches sometimes find it difficult to adjust when you put them on a hook and cast them in the lake.

Lastly, the Leech Tamer is a polyester mesh bag that keeps the critters contained while allowing them to breathe fresh water in your baitwell and clean away the crud that would otherwise suffocate them. When you put them on a hook, they almost leap out of your hand. 

Furthermore, once in the well, your little bait buddies acclimate to the ambient water temperature and won’t ball up on a hook when dropped in the lake. Believe it or not, you can chuck a Tamer with leeches in a Livewell, forget about it for weeks, and come back to find live captives.

What are things to know for leech storage?

To maintain healthy leeches, change the water every other day. Use distilled, non-chlorinated, or bottled water.

When not in use, cover the leech container with a cover if stored in a dark area is not feasible. Leeches can also be stored in the fridge. In this situation, they would need to be taken out of the refrigerator several hours before use and allowed to come to room temperature to regain their mobility.

Distilled water plus Hirudo salt is recommended. Hirudo Salt is a specially formulated recipe for making water that is suitable for keeping the medicinal leech Hirudo Medicinalis alive. 

Leeches can also be held in drinking water that has been dechlorinated. Distilled water with Hirudo Salt is the best water for long-term storage. 

If you just use distilled water, the animal’s “ions” would be depleted. Simply add 0.5g of Hirudo Salt to each liter of water and blend well. The water is now safe to drink. There is no need for aeration. 

If the water becomes gloomy, change it every other day or more often. If dead leeches are discovered while changing the water, dispose of them as mentioned below (“Disposal”) and increase the water change frequency to once a day. You can go back to changing the water every other day after three daily water changes with no more leech mortality.

What is the best temperature to keep leeches?

Leeches will stay alive for several months if you keep them in fairly cold and clean water. 

The optimal temperature for maintaining leeches is five °C – 20°C. Avoid temperatures above (20 °C). We suggest keeping the container in a cool, dark location with a temperature of no more than 500F, or as close to 400F as possible, and never in direct sunlight. 

When not in use, cover the leech container with a cover if stored in a dark area is not feasible. Leeches can also be stored in the fridge. In this situation, they would need to be taken out of the refrigerator several hours before use and allowed to come to room temperature to regain their mobility. 

One leech per liter of water in your bottle is a safe rule of thumb to avoid overcrowding, but during shipping, a single leech is placed in an 8 oz. jar. Leeches should be held at room temperature, between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5 and 20 degrees Celsius).

What container should you keep leeches in?

During the 19th century, a pharmacist used a container named the leech jar to show his stock of medicinal leeches. The pharmacist stocked the jar with leeches intended for sale that day, and holes were cut into the lid to allow for air. 

The elaborate appearance of the jar reflects the high demand leeches kept as a commodity during this period, as they were sold in large quantities to both medical professionals and the general public.

Leeches are amphibious and they like to crawl about, a lid will always be essential in containing leeches. A container with a big opening at the top, such as a large pot, is highly recommended. This allows for quick dispensing of leeches and can be easily hidden with a piece of cotton fabric and a strong rubber band. 

Perforations are also recommended if a lid is used, but they must be very thin, as the leech body is elastic and therefore capable of passing through incredibly small openings. As a consequence, overcrowding needs to be prevented as much as possible. 

When changing the water, ensure you pick out any sick or dead leeches and dispose of them. A 10-liter container should hold no more than 50 leeches per container. To keep leeches alive, fill a clean glass jar or plastic tub halfway with water. 

How to dispose of leeches?

Feeding leeches should be held in a separate jar and disposed of appropriately as infectious material. 

Leeches must never be used again on the same or another patient after they have been used. 

The most popular question about leeches is about repellents. Although it is uncertain if a particular preparation is commercially available, there are various tried-and-true but unproven leech-protection ideas. 

A lather of bath soap smeared on exposed parts and allowed to dry, eucalyptus oil, tropical strength insect repellent, lemon juice, and impenetrable barriers of socks and pantyhose are just a few of the options. (Source)

1. Leeches should be treated as a contaminated biohazard substance after separation or removal from the patient. 

2. Return any unused leeches to the pharmacy to be stored in the original bag.

On a small scale, salt is also an effective way to destroy leeches and other pests, including garden slugs. If your favorite swimming hole is infested with leeches, adding enough salt to the water to destroy them will be disastrous for the environment as a whole. 

It is preferable to catch the leeches. Submerge a piece of meat in your lake or pond by sticking it in a coffee can with tiny holes in the top. Leeches will find it and enter the can, but they will be unable to exit.

For leeches that elude your fish, Create leech-sized holes in a coffee or aluminum can, then bait it with raw chicken or fish heads and drop it in a shallow part of your pond. The burrs from the hole punches would keep the leeches from escaping once they have taken the bait and gone inside. When the can is full, remove it and repeat until the leeches are gone.

How to Raise Leeches for Fish Bait?

  1. Set up a bin to keep your nightcrawlers in. 2 feet by 3 feet and at least 10 inches deep is a decent starting scale. The bedding should be moist and about 8 inches thick, with peat moss being the best choice for nightcrawlers. To allow water to drain out of the bin, drainage holes will be needed in the bottom.
  1. Fill the bin with worms. Don’t add too many European nightcrawlers because they replicate easily. For a start, half a pound of worms should suffice. The number of worms depends on their size when you get them, but it should be about 400 to 500. Each worm can lay one or two egg capsules per week, with each capsule containing four to twenty worms.
  1. Soil should be added to the bedding. The worms will get their grit from 2 to 4 cups of soil spread over the top of the bedding.
  1. Give the worms plenty to eat. You can feed them store-bought food like chicken-egg layer mash or organic scraps like lettuce leaves and potato peelings. They can live on either, but the mash can provide more calories and a wider range of nutrients, which may help them grow faster.
  1. Once a week, check the pH in your bin. The pH of the water should be between 6.0 and 7.0 for European nightcrawlers. The bedding will turn sour if it becomes too acidic, and your worms will die. If the pH falls below 6.0, granulated limestone or crushed eggshells may be used to lift it.
  1. Make sure your worm bins are at room temperature. While European nightcrawlers can withstand a wider range of temperatures than many other varieties, they should be held between 55 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit for best performance.
  1. Every three weeks, turn the bedding. As you’re doing this, keep an eye on your worms. Lift out some of the bedding once a month, harvest the worms, and return the bedding to the bin. The harvested worms may be sold or used as bait or pet food. They can also be used to begin a second bin.

What are care instructions for a leech?

HOW TO GET THEM OUT: Empty the bottle of the gel containing the leeches.

If the leeches are still inside, apply a little cold water and vigorously swoosh all around. You should try to remove them with your fingers if they are still stuck to the walls. 

Standard tweezers should damage the leech’s body, so they should not be used; instead, purchase the recommended leech forceps for easy removal and handling of the leech. If you don’t have forceps, make sure you treat your leeches quickly, so they don’t start sucking your blood.

KEY CONTAINER: Store your leeches in a large glass (or plastic) jar with a close-fitting lid. Fill the container with ice-cold water to about 1/3 capacity. You can puncture needle-size holes in the lid if it is closed. Alternatively, you should cover your container with fabric bound with an elastic band instead of a lid.

CARE: At least once a week, change the leech-water. Remove old water by vigorously shaking it with the lid on before the leeches’ skins fall off. Leeches shed their skins about once a week. Skins float in the water as slimy, whitish-clear particles.

Carefully pour out the old water with skins, being careful not to spill any leeches, then refill the pot, cover it, and shake it again. Repeat this process as needed until all of the skins have vanished and the water is fully clear. Fill the container with 1/3 cold water (tap is fine) and tightly close the lid.

Keep your leech jar in a cool, partially dark location away from direct sunlight. In the winter, they can be placed outside with the jars partially covered with a towel to shield them from direct sunlight. 

During the winter, we do not recommend feeding your leeches. Leech species can live for up to a year without food. Keep your fed and hungry leeches apart, as they will prey on each other. Separate jars should be purchased to better separate your fed and hungry leeches.

How to Keep Leeches Alive Article Conclusion

Having read this article on keeping leeches alive you now have the information you need to improve your fishing. I will say you adfe braver than I am as I could never use leeches. Maggots I can cope with, and even slugs, but not leeches. Yuck! ha ha

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