The maggot is the most popular coarse fishing bait used in Britain. Almost all our freshwater species may be taken on it, major competitions have been won on it, and it has also accounted for some record fish.

Maggots are small, easy to buy, transport and use. Not so long ago they were cheap, but prices have risen steeply. Maggots now cost at least £1 a pint. They are sold this way because pint beer glasses were once used to scoop them up for sale.

The maggot is the larva, or grub, of the fly. The maggots of the bluebottle, greenbottle, and common housefly are the ones which are used by the angler.

Coloured maggots

To increase the attractiveness of maggots to fish, they may be dyed a variety of colours, and indeed can be bought coloured orange, yellow, red or bronze. Tackle dealers supply colouring agents for dyeing them orange or bronze, AuromineO for yellow, and Rhodamine B for red.

How to use dyes

It must be pointed out that serious doubt has recently been cast on chrysodine as a colouring agent. These dyes may be used in one of two ways. First, the maggots can be coloured by raising them on foodstuffs treated with a small amount of the dye. The second method is best for maggots that have already been cleaned, as they are when bought. For this, sprinkle dye on them and stir well, then leave for one to four hours according to the depth of colour desired. Next, add bran or sawdust on which they will deposit excess dye. Lastly, sieve them to remove the bran, and they are ready for use.

The ‘annatto’ is a special colourfed maggot whose yellow colour comes from the dye used to colour butter. Gozzers and other extra soft maggots produce the best results with this dye. Annatto is bought in roll form and must be cut into slices and mixed into a thin paste with water before use. The best time to introduce annatto is when the maggots are about halfgrown. Spread the paste on the meat and replace in the bran. When the maggots stop feeding they are ready for use.

Lastly, if buying maggots from a shop, be sure they are fresh and do not include remnants of last week’s stock. They should be shiny and wriggle vigorously.

Maggot breeding

Breeding maggots is big business. Millions are sold every week by tackle dealers all over the country. Professional breeders use bluebottles for mass production of the ordinary maggot. The common housefly’s maggots are known as ‘squatts’, and being smaller than the bluebottle larvae they are used as ‘feeders’ thrown in to attract fish. Maggots from the greenbottle are called “pinkies’. These are also small and used as ‘feeders’, but may be used on the hooks when circumstances require very fine tackle.