Can I Use Pepperoni as Fish Bait?

You enjoy fishing, but you can’t wait for lunchtime, as you made a mouth-watering Italian pepperoni sandwich with pepperoni, salami, ham, and cheese. As you take your sandwich out of the cooler, a buddy suggests using pepperoni on your fishing hook to catch more fish. Will it work?

Yes, pepperoni–like many prepared types of meat–can very well get more fish biting on your line. Fish such as crappie, bluegill, catfish, and brown bullheads will be lured in by the scent (and lingering grease) of the pepperoni in the water.

If fishing with pepperoni sounds a bit strange to you, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know. Keep reading for more information on how to use pepperoni so your day of fishing duds might turn into a rousing success!  

Can You Use Pepperoni as Bait to Catch Fish?

When it comes to fishing, you’re a bit of a purist. Depending on the occasion and the fish you’re angling for, you’ll use artificial or live bait. The live bait you rely on is always the standard stuff such as worms or minnows.

Then your friend told you to use pepperoni as bait because they have a friend who tried it and experienced great results. You can’t help but be dubious. Does pepperoni really lure the fish in close to your hook?

Yes, indeed, pepperoni can work fantastically as bait! It’s not unique in this quality. As we touched on in the intro, prepared meats of all kinds will also get the job done. Those include everything from Spam to hot dogs and Slim Jim’s. 

Prepared meats like pepperoni are one of many people foods that fish will happily snack on. In the next section, when we talk about the species of fish you can hope to catch with pepperoni, you’ll see why. Their diets are usually quite bland, so any chance to liven up what they eat with people food is too hard for fish to pass up.

The thing about prepared meats such as Slim Jim’s and pepperoni is that they can be quite costly. That can discourage some anglers from trying them as bait. You don’t have to use it as your go-to, but in a pinch, pepperoni could increase your rate of fish caught. 

Which Fish Are Attracted to Pepperoni?

Okay, you’ve caved and decided to try fishing with pepperoni as bait. You have to know for yourself whether it really works. 

When you eventually feel a tug on your line, it could be any of these five fish species. 


In freshwaters across North America, crappies swim. If you’re towards the east, you’re more likely to spot black crappies. White crappies are common in the Mississippi River, Hudson Bay, and Great Lakes basins, which are located throughout parts of Texas, South Dakota, Ontario (Canada), and New York.

Compared to other panfish, crappies are appreciated for their depth of flavor, so they’re worth catching as many as you can. 


Bream or bluegill are a second freshwater fish species that pepperoni will draw nearer. Ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the US stock plenty of bluegill. 

What’s tricky about fishing for bluegill is that they hide well. They will seek out structures underwater or swim inside hollowed tree stumps where you can’t get to them. These shallow-water fish will also head towards the deepest areas of water, which also makes them harder to catch.

Not anymore! Bluegill will find it hard to resist pepperoni considering that they consume minnows, snails, worms, leeches, crayfish, shrimp, zooplankton, and insects and insect larvae in their everyday life. Pepperoni is a very nice change of pace for the bluegill.

Although crappies are renowned for their flavor, some anglers argue that bluegills taste even better. You’ll have to try both for yourself to make up your own mind! 


If you’d rather reel in a large catch that’s sure to impress your other fishing buddies on the boat, then you’re looking for catfish. This whiskered fish likes freshwater as well, especially running, shallow bodies of water. 

Catfishes might be five feet to six feet. Bigger ones weigh well over 100 pounds!

What anglers love about catfishes is how undiscerning they are about their diets. Catfishes will eat just about anything you put in front of them, and that certainly includes human foods such as pepperoni and other prepared meats. 

The vitamin D in catfish makes it worth eating, and some have omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well. Some anglers call catfish flavorless though. If you’re among them, then try prepping your catfish in different ways. You should have enough fish meat to last you for a while, after all! 

Brown Bullheads

The last species of fish that’s especially known to bite for pepperoni is the bullhead or brown bullhead. 

At first glance, you can mistake a bullhead for a catfish since both have whiskers. That’s part of why the brown bullhead is known in some parts of the world as the mudcat. Like catfishes, brown bullheads can be quite sizable, measuring up to 21 inches long.

Common in the Mississippi River, Hudson Bay, and Great Lakes basins, brown bullheads also populate in waters across much of the rest of the US. You’ll find them in slow streams, ponds, and lakes.

They prefer muddy waters without a lot of oxygen. There, brown bullheads will feed on whatever is on the bottom of the seafloor. When the fish spots some pepperoni bobbing in the water, of course, it’s going to bite.

Admittedly, brown bullheads are not the most popular fish among anglers. If you want them though, they’re all yours. The brown bullhead lacks many natural predators, so where brown bullheads are, you can typically find them in great numbers. This can be highly advantageous to you! 

Is Pepperoni Bad for Fish? 

Before you start using pepperoni as fish bait, you have a question. Is pepperoni really the best thing for a fish to consume?

No, of course not. Pepperoni is a type of cured deli meat, which means that it’s uncooked. The meat could contain bacteria such as toxoplasma as well as parasites, with listeria one such example. 

People aren’t usually affected by these bacteria and parasites unless they’re pregnant. Then a woman shouldn’t eat pepperoni until she gives birth.

As for fish, it’s hard to say what will happen to their health because there’s not a whole lot of information out there. Fish, like other animals, can process and digest the natural foods that are regularly a part of their diets. People food can negatively impact animals, so it’s reasonable to assume that fish would be included.

All this doesn’t matter if you’re catching a fish with the intention of it being your next meal. If you’re catching and releasing a fish though, you can always use natural live bait, which is better for the fish to consume. 

Tips for Using Pepperoni as Fish Bait

You’ve got your pepperoni ready, so how do you use it to catch some fish? Here are our top tips. 

Don’t Throw in Whole Slices at a Time

If you’re putting one piece of pepperoni on your hook at a time to catch fish, you’re being wasteful. Instead, cut a piece of pepperoni in half lengthwise (or rip it if you don’t have a knife or kitchen scissors handy).

Then take that half and fold it on top of itself until you get a chunk of pepperoni. Slip the chunk of meat onto your fishing hook and you’re ready to go. 

Use with Other Bait

You don’t have to use pepperoni as your only bait of choice. Some anglers tear up a piece of pepperoni, put it on a leadhead, and then add plastic trout worms. The leadhead should be small. 

Let the Pepperoni Linger

Some fish will bite immediately for pepperoni, but for others, it can take a few minutes. As the pepperoni sits, the smell and grease will disperse, spreading into the nearby waters. This can pique a fish’s interest. 

Share Your Pepperoni Sandwich – Try These Other Ingredients as Fish Bait

If you just can’t make yourself give up the pepperoni in your sandwich, you don’t necessarily have to. The other ingredients in an Italian pepperoni sandwich also happen to each be excellent choices for fish bait. Here’s what you need to know. 


Take a corner of your sandwich, roll the bread into a ball, and attach it to your fishing hook. Carp, suckers, and catfish are especially receptive to bread. You can also use bread balls with a bobber, so give it a try! 


We wrote a great post on our blog about using cheese as fish bait. In short, yes, it really works. From blue cheese to cheddar cheese and other hard cheeses, fish such as barbel, bluegill, trout, and bullheads will be unable to resist. 


We’ve also written a post on the wonders of ham as fish bait, which works to the same effect as pepperoni. You want to use small bits of ham at a time just like with pepperoni so you don’t waste too much. The fish that most enjoy pork include red-ear sunfish, bluegill, bass, trout, and carp.  


Pull a piece of lettuce or two from your Italian pepperoni sandwich and you can bet that catfish will bite for it. Not as many fish go crazy over lettuce, but hey, it’s better than nothing! 

Final Thoughts

Pepperoni is a handy fish bait backup if you run out of live bait or you’re just not reeling in fish as well as you usually do. Keep in mind that pepperoni is not the healthiest choice for you or for fish, so for catch and release fish, maybe use standard live bait like minnows or worms instead.

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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