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Large maggots

Three are three types of maggot you can buy from your local tackle shop.

Here national canal fishing champion, Simon Mottram, explains the differences between squatts, pinkies and large maggots.

The standard large maggot is probably the bait most associated with every day fishing when people think about anglers’ baits. Large maggots are available at all tackle shops and eaten by all coarse fish species. Typically, anglers keep them in plastic bait tins with fine sawdust, maize meal or bran added. In the east of England, maggots are even available from vending machines at around 40 locations.

Commercial production

Maggots are the larva of the common bluebottle fly and are bred on maggot farms. They are typically fed on the carcasses of fish, chicken or turkeys and take a week or so to grow to full size. Large maggots are naturally white in colour, but are often coloured, usually by the breeders who add dye’s to the food. Hence, you can find red, yellow, orange, pink and even green versions.


Maggots advert

Before the 1960s, maggots were known as gentles. Various types of maggots were described by Dame Juliana Berners in her ‘Treatise of fishing with an angle’ written back in the 1420s so have been in use as fishing bait in the UK for at least 600 years. Izaak Walton amongst other authors of the era describe how to breed maggots and by 1700, some fishing tackle shops were selling them commercially.


When angling participation and the use of maggots was at its height, many breeders got rich, including the maggot king, Arthur Bryant. It was famously said that a blind man could identify him at 20 paces.

Today, there are fewer than a dozen operational maggot farms in the UK compared with around 50 back in the 1970s.

How to store maggots between fishing sessions

When it’s warm in the summer, the maggot will quickly pupate, ie. turn to casters. To slow this natural process down, maggots are kept in the fridge. Half fill your bait tin with maggots and consider adding extra maize meal or sawdust to ensure the maggots remain dry. The maggots will shrink slightly with the skins becoming slightly tougher but will certainly be perfectly useable for at least a week. 

Do make sure you get the permission of the fridge owner. Take care to make sure the lid is kept on the receptacle - for like pinkies - stories of escaped maggots are the stuff of nightmares.

Motty’s maggot tips

  • Colour of maggot is very much a personal preference, use the colour you have most confidence in
  • On canals, use large maggots on the hook only when targeting big fish such as chub, perch, tench or bream
  • Hook then at the blunt end and immediately reject any that lose body fluid
  • Adding maize meal to shop bought maggot keeps then in good condition
  • Don’t overfill you maggot tin, it ensures the bait as plenty of oxygen available
  • Make sure the air holes in your bait tin are not clogged with debris so the maggots are able to keep breathing

Last date edited: 26 November 2017