Can I Use Ham for Fish Bait?

Bright and early this morning, you packed a ham sandwich to enjoy for lunch later today on your boat. Admittedly, your day of fishing hasn’t quite gone how you expected, and now you’re out of usable bait. Can you take some ham out of your sandwich as bait or do you have to turn in early today?

Yes, you can use ham for fish bait by cutting or breaking the lunchmeat off into small pieces and attaching it to your line. You could attract fish species like carp, trout, bass, bluegills, and red-ear sunfish. Uncooked bacon works as well if you don’t mind sparing some. 

Wait, you can really use ham for fish bait? Yes, you can, and in this article, we’ll explain all the ins and outs of doing so. You’ll learn more about the fish species that like ham, how to use ham effectively to catch more fish, and whether bacon has the same effect on fish. You won’t want to miss it! 

Can You Use Ham as Bait to Catch Fish?

Running out of bait is one of the worst feelings in the world. Perhaps you realize, to your horror, that you had completely forgotten your refrigerated live bait when you packed up for your fishing trip earlier. Maybe your fishing day has been so busy that you ran out of bait, as we mentioned in the intro.

Either way, this is the time when any fisherman or woman faces a dilemma: do you stay the course and get crafty with your bait choices, or do you go home and try again tomorrow?

We always appreciate a crafty choice of bait, and ham is certainly crafty. Since it’s a popular and reasonably priced lunchmeat, we’d bet you have a ham sandwich packed in your mini cooler right now. If you unpeel the plastic wrap, take out a piece of ham, and toss it into the lake, what would happen?

You’d get a bite on your line, that’s what would happen. As we’ll talk about a little later, many fish species find ham amenable either because they like the taste or they just prefer food over a plastic bobber. 

Now, is ham the best choice for a fish? Not really, for just the same reasons why it’s not the best choice for you either. Ham, especially deli ham, is laden with preservatives and salt. 

If you’re catching and then releasing your fish, for their long-term health, maybe don’t give them ham. However, if the fish you’re catching are yours and they’re going to end up as tonight’s dinner anyway, then feeding them ham doesn’t matter as much. 

What about Bacon? Do Fish Like It?

Both ham and bacon are pork, so you figured that if you can use one as fish bait that surely the other will work as well, right? Well, yes and no.

If you brought a BLT with you for lunch on your fishing trip, you can’t just take out the cooked bacon and throw it into the water. Fish will usually only bite for uncooked bacon.

Should you decide to use bacon for fish bait, select pieces that are predominantly fatty with little lean meat. You’ll be able to tell you have the right ratio because the bacon will be whiter or beiger than it is red or brown. 

Then pack the bacon in an airtight plastic zippy bag. When the time comes to use the bait, take one piece of bacon, fold it on itself twice, and then attach it to your hook.

Do a lot of fishermen and women use bacon as bait? No, and rightfully so! Compared to ham, bacon is a lot more expensive. Even the fattier pieces can be salvaged. 

Plus, most people love bacon, even those who might not necessarily like ham. The thought of using bacon as fish bait would be very upsetting to them. 

The biggest disadvantage to using bacon as fishing bait is that it needs to be uncooked. Not a lot of people go around with uncooked bacon in their pockets. 

All that said, bacon is an option you can fall back on if need be, but really only as a last resort.  

Further Reading: Can I Use Bacon for Fish Bait?

Which Fish Are Attracted to Ham?

Getting back to ham now, are you wondering which fish species you can catch with this deli meat? The list is quite extensive, so let’s get into it now. 


The standard diet of a wild carp includes plant matter, algae, mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic worms, and insects, but this is one fish species that readily welcomes people food into its everyday diet. Carp will eat everything from peanut butter balls to corn kernels. 

Yet you don’t have those foods as bait, you have ham. That’s okay for carp too. This fish isn’t very discerning and will try to eat whatever food source comes floating by. Using ham as bait is your perfect chance to reel in a huge carp and impress all your friends! 


Trout eat eel, insects, bloodworms, mealworms, shrimp, zooplankton, and mollusks, which tells us they’re carnivorous. You might have heard that trout will ignore some people food, but this simply isn’t true. Trout are not picky fish and will eat ham as well as other edible bait if you put it out on your fishing line.

Catching rainbow trout especially is easy with live bait, as this species is known for its reduced aggression compared to lake trout and brown trout. You can still catch those trout with ham, but be prepared for more of a struggle. 


You’re fishing for some largemouth bass. Since these creatures are known to eat large prey such as frogs and crayfish, you figure there’s no way you can hook a bass with ham alone, right? You can, but you’ll likely need more sizable portions of ham than a few cubes here and there. 


Freshwater bluegill is another species you can catch if you have ham to use as bait. This fish typically consumes fish eggs, smaller fish species, zooplankton, crayfish (the smaller kind; the bigger ones are for bass), and snails. That diet, as we’re sure you can imagine, can grow quite tiresome.

Bluegill will eagerly eat all sorts of human food, cheese and ham being chief among them. Try using some ham for yourself and see what kinds of results you get.

Red-Ear Sunfish

Whether you call them red-ears or shellcrackers, the red-ear sunfish is last on our list of the species you can reel in if all you have left for bait is ham. Considering these fish grow to lengths of 12 inches, if you catch one red-ear or several, you will have dinner for at least tonight and likely the next night as well. 

Tips for Catching Fish with Ham 

You have lots of fishing experience, but only with live bait that you’re supposed to attach to your hook like worms and small insects, not ham. Fortunately, using ham as bait isn’t all that different from fishing with other bait. Here are some tips for success. 

Use Small Pieces Only 

If you hope to make a full afternoon of fishing with ham as bait, then you can’t toss in slice after slice. You’ll run out of bait very quickly after nabbing only a few fish. Instead, use small ham cubes. 

What if all you have are slices of ham? Then take a portion of the ham, roll it into a ball, and attach it to your hook. The fish we discussed in the last section has acute enough senses of smell that they’ll be able to detect even a small amount of ham. 

Overdoing it will only give the fish a free meal and they won’t bob up around where you’re fishing! 

Cheap Ham Works 

If you didn’t intend to use ham as bait, then you might have brought expensive ham because that’s what you like to eat. Yet even ham from the cheap deli will suffice for fishing. Just go back to the last section and read what a fish’s diet usually consists of. They don’t exactly have refined palettes and instead go gaga over any human food. 

Don’t Get Reliant 

If you end your day of fishing with a full haul, that’s great, but ham is not a type of bait you should use all the time. As we said before, it’s full of salts and preservatives that aren’t great for fish or their habitats. 

Other Lunch Foods You Can Use as Fishing Bait

Maybe you don’t even like ham, but you did pack a breakfast and/or lunch with you to fuel you up for a day of fishing. Dig through your cooler. If you have any of the following foods, they’re applicable as bait as much as ham is. 


It doesn’t matter what’s in between your sandwich, since you used bread, you have a bait option at the ready if all your worms wriggled away. Carp, suckers, and catfish especially will be receptive to bread on the end of the hook. 

Like when using ham as bait, you don’t need a whole piece of bread, just a small bit.  Rip the bread and then begin rolling in your hand until it makes a firm dough ball. Then put the dough ball on your hook. It should be sticky enough that even when it gets wet, the bread will be okay.

That said, wet bread will get funky after a while, so if the fish aren’t biting immediately, you might have to try a different type of edible bait. 

Hot Dogs

We wrote a full post on using hot dogs as fishing bait that you should read if you missed it. Hot dogs are technically already cooked when you buy them, and you could eat them cold if you wanted to. That makes them a great choice of lunch when fishing.

Fish appreciate hot dogs, including catfish. Slice your hot dogs to about the size of your knuckle so you don’t waste this bait. Like ham, hot dogs are very salty, so they make a good choice as bait only seldom. 


Few people foods are a better bait than cheese is. The best part is that any cheese will do, from thin-sliced Swiss deli cheese to cheeses with a more pronounced scent such as blue Stilton. 

If you have slices of cheese, then cut a piece off and roll it into a ball as you did with the bread. For chunk cheese, break off a chunk and attach it to your fishing line. Between the smell and the taste of the cheese, few fish can resist!  

Further Reading: Can I Use Cheese as Fish Bait?


You love that first bite into a juicy ear of corn, right? Fish too crave the sweetness of this yellow vegetable, so it’s a good bait option. Bluegill, perch, crappie, and trout will respond the most enthusiastically to being fed corn.

You can’t just attach a single piece of corn to your fishing hook and hope to get a bite, though. Fill the hook with three to four kernels and see which fish come biting! 

Further Reading: Is Fishing with Corn Illegal? Laws for your state


If you’re fishing for catfish, you need to try chicken as bait at least once. Between the greasiness and fattiness of the chicken skin, the catfish is in heaven. 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to feed the fish the white meat and chicken breasts that you’d save for yourself. You can use chicken livers or just uncooked chicken skin.

As always, watch your quantities. It doesn’t take a lot of chicken to pique a catfish’s interest!

Final Thoughts  

Although you probably wouldn’t have thought to use it, ham is a suitable option for bait if you run out of worms or forget to bring your minnows. Many fish species will gladly eat ham, from panfish like the bluegill to bass and catfish. 

It’s not an everyday type of bait, but now you know how to fish with ham (and uncooked bacon) in a pinch. You’ll surely impress your fishing buddies the next time you all go out. 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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