Slimy and grotesque-looking, despised by the gardener—that’s the much-maligned slug. But freelined it’s a killing bait for the most wary chub and free for the collecting besides.
Most people think of the slug as a slimy and unpleasant creature which must be treated with distaste. To the hard-working gardener it is a major pest, eating young green shoots. But for the big-fish angler the slug is almost a thing of beauty and a bait that will attract even the most wary chub.
There are over 20 species of slug to be found in Britain. They can be considered as snails that have lost their shells, for the internal anatomy of a slug is very similar.
The best slugs
For the angler, the best slugs are un-doubtedly the black, Arion ater, the great grey, Limax maximus, and the red, Arion ater rufus. Most of the other British slugs are too small to use as a big-fish bait.
As slugs tend to lie-up when frosts appear in late October or November, one must construct either a holding area or a place where they can be allowed to breed. By far the best way to keep them is in an aquarium. This will enable you to see what is going on inside without having to disturb the inmates.
An ideal size is an aquarium measuring 48inx8inxl5in. It should have as a cover a well-fitting lid of lAin plate glass.
Place about 6in of garden soil in the bottom and make sure that you have a few good-sized lobworms in it as well. On top of the soil place some small pieces of plywood, about 6inx6in. The food for the slugs is placed on these slabs.
As slugs like to hide during the day you must prepare somewhere for them to go, so put a couple of inverted flowerpots on top of the soil.
Keep moisture down
The atmosphere in the tank is kept moist by the tight-fitting lid. This creates rather too much moisture, so if the aquarium is kept propped up at one end the moisture will filter down and form a pool which should be siphoned out from time to time.
It is important to keep the pool of condensed water low since for some reason the slugs tend to crawl into it and drown. Therefore it is best if the ‘sluggery’ is kept in a garden shed or garage, for the smell of decomposing slug is very potent.
On a rainy day, place them on the lawn for a ‘run’. But keep an eye on them for they can move surprisingly fast and disappear into the grass.
Food for the slugs can be all kinds of household waste, greengrocery and garden cuttings. Add potato-peelings and greens such as cabbage.
Check the tank regularly and remove any dead slugs. When the tank is established and the slugs are feeding well, they will probably breed. So in late October or November place some sheets of newspaper on the soil. The slugs will lay their clusters of small white eggs on the paper, and some on the in-sides of the inverted flowerpots on top of the soil.
After the eggs have been laid, remove the slugs. They will soon die as they only live about a year. Any rotting food must also be taken out. Now cover the sides and top of the aquarium with polystyrene sheeting to keep in the warmth.
When spring arrives, very small slugs will be seen. Often, the tight lid and condensation attract tiny flies and mites. The young slugs will feed on these, but get them ‘weaned’ on to potato-peelings and green-stuffs as soon as possible.
A few fresh slugs from the garden ought to be put in, but it seems that some species cannot get on together. The large black slugs do not live with the red. So keep to one sort which you can find locally. The slugs should be about 3in long by May and in June they can be fattened up for the summer’s fishing.
Fattening them up
Three days before you go out on a fishing trip, get a whole melon and cut a small hole in the tough skin. If you place this in the sluggery they will crawl in and gorge themselves, often leaving nothing but the melon’s tough skin. The largest slug I have bred using this method is one that measured an incredible Ivsin long. This may be a record!