Maggots: Whites, pinkies and squats as fishing bait

Three kinds of maggots are sold, in their natural state or dyed various colours:

Large whites – the larvae of bluebottles -are the most widely used, as both hookbait and feed. They are usually sold in maize meal, and sometimes bran or sawdust. Large whites can be loose fed accurately by hand up to 10m or so, but for greater distances up to about 25m, or when there’s a facing wind, you need to use a catapult or mix them in groundbait. Pinkies – the larvae of greenbottles – are small, pinkish maggots. They too are usually sold in maize meal.

Pinkies are good as hookbait for small fish at all times and for larger fish when bites are shy and hard to come by, especially in winter. Being smaller than large whites they are less likely to overfeed the fish. They are livelier, too, and wriggle well on all but the coldest days.

Pinkies also make good feed but they are too small to be accurately loose fed as far as large whites.

Being lively, pinkies tend to burrow out of sight into the bottom when fed into the swim. So feed them little and often to attract fish as they fall through the water. Squatts – the larvae of housefiies – are smaller still. They are usually sold in slightly dampened red sand.

Squatts are traditionally used as feed’ and only tried on the hook when all else has failed. Because squatts are sluggish, they stay on the bottom in full view when fed into the swim. This makes them good for holding passing fish, especially bream.

Buying and storing

Maggots aren’t cheap but, with care, fresh large whites and pinkies can be kept in good condition for two or three weeks. Squatts unfortunately don’t usually keep for more than a week.

Fresh maggots are lively and soft to the touch, not leathery. Tough, old maggots are only good in very cold water, which makes fresh maggots stretch and die. With pinkies you want to see only a slight tinge of pink; a strong tinge is a sure sign of old age.

Maggots are sold in pint and half-pint measures. They are best kept in purpose-made plastic bait boxes with perforated lids that let the maggots breathe. Keep the boxes clean and dry and the holes in the lids unclogged. To prevent spillage, the boxes should ideally only be filled halfway – so for half a pint of maggots use a one-pint box.

The best place for storing maggots is a fridge. Failing that, choose a cool, dark, well ventilated place such as a garage floor, but bear in mind that they won’t keep as long – only a week at most in summer, a bit longer in winter.

Hooked on maggots

It’s obviously important when fishing that the fish can see the bait and that they like what they see. For example, when fishing on murky waters a plain maggot may be hardly visible, whereas a bright red or yellow specimen may show up clearly. There are several things you can do to maggots to enhance their appeal.


Some anglers claim to have great success with flavoured maggots, arguing that fish prefer some tastes and smells to others. Whether true or not, unclean maggots have a strong smell of ammonia which certainly seems to put the fish off. This smell is greatly reduced by cleaning. Any remaining odour can be masked with flavourings. Handling maggots can also leave an off- putting smell, especially when handled by smokers who taint the bait with nicotine. These effects, too, can be reduced by using flavourings.

But how do you know which smells will be appealing to fish? Some anglers argue that sweet flavours – like vanilla – are best during the warm months and spicy ones -like turmeric – are best during the winter. The only way to find out which flavours suit your kind of fishing is to experiment.

Tackle shops stock a bewildering range of flavourings in little bottles and atomizers. On the whole these are used by carp anglers to flavour boilies but on waters where these flavourings have been introduced, anglers have found that other species sometimes show a preference for them. Flavourings in powder form that are specially formulated for adding to loose feed and groundbait are available. Popular ones are: vanilla, caramel, coriander and aniseed. Clean the bait, then riddle off any maize or bran before sprinkling on the flavouring, or else the aroma and flavour will be absorbed by the cereal. Two teaspoonfuls are enough for a pint of maggots.


Maggots can be dyed various colours. The most usual are yellow, bronze and red. Other maggots you may come across are green and blue, and the ‘discos’ in fluorescent orange, yellow and pink.

Anglers can dye their own maggots but the dye that is currently available does not ‘take’ so well and is easily washed off. It is better to buy ready coloured maggots. These have had the dye introduced during breeding, at the ‘feed’ stage, so the maggot is coloured internally.

Yellow and bronze During the Seventies, yellow and bronze were popular with matchmen. It was then found that the particular dye used to colour these maggots causes cancer, so a ban was imposed on all such dyes. Safe alternatives have been found and yellow and bronze are widely used again.

Fish are able to differentiate between colours, and certain species do seem to prefer certain colours. Anglers have used yellow and bronze maggots to take large bags of roach, chub and dace. Red One of the deadliest baits in the matchman’s armoury is the bloodworm -the small red larvae of the midge. This highly effective, but controversial, bait has been banned at many venues. Anglers have tried to imitate it by using red squatts. Whether the fish are taken in by the substitution is doubtful, but the bait has certainly been used with considerable success for bream.

Large red maggots, red pinkies and red squatts are good for taking perch and carp, and tench sometimes show a preference for a red maggot.

Sinkers and floaters

The rate at which a maggot sinks through the water is an important factor in loose feeding. In some situations – when loose feeding on fast-flowing rivers, for example -you need to get the bait down quickly. At other times a slow sinking bait is best.

Whether your maggots are slow or fast sinkers will depend on their diet. Maggots which have been raised on meat sink quicker than those fed on fish. Most commercially bred maggots are fed meat offal, but it is worth asking your dealer what type he stocks.

Both fish-fed and meat-fed maggots can be made to float. Floating maggots can be fished on the surface to take surface feeding fish like carp, bleak, dace and chub.

Floaters can also be used to slow down the fall of the hookbait. When the bait is falling through the last foot or so of the water, it is important that it should look as natural as possible. The extra weight of even a small hook is enough to make a bait sink faster than your loose feed. You can counteract this by using a maggot that has been turned into a floater.