In the weeks ahead there will be many anglers stocking up on worms and for good reason. They’re a superb, bait all-year-round for all manner of coarse fish and while everything from a stickleback to a pike will take a worm, they can often be the bait that will sort out that specimen-sized fish; this is especially true during Autumn and Winter.
Whether you go out on your lawn collecting worms by torchlight or if you’re lazy like me and buy them, in these difficult economic times it makes sense to look after such a precious angling commodity. Worms rarely visit the surface during the winter, so you’ll struggle collecting them and if you buy them mail order, it’s often cheaper to buy in bulk. So, it makes sense to stock up now and try to keep your worms alive and healthy, ready for use whenever you need them. I must admit that although effective baits, I’ve never really used or kept redworms, so the info below may not apply to them. Maybe someone with experience of keeping them could email me with details!
I’ve tried various methods of keeping and feeding worms, based on what I’ve read. With very mixed results! On many occasions – with Lobworms in particular – I’ve ended up with nothing more than a bucket of mush, but in the past year or so I think I’ve almost perfected my storage methods. Last winter I managed to keep lobworms in a useable state for 5 months and they still caught fish! The main reasons worms die in storage are through starvation, drowning, mould outbreaks, ammonia from maggots and from temperature-change shock. The more you can do to eliminate these, the longer your worms will last.
Firstly there are a few golden rules to remember:
- Keep worms cool, but protect them from sudden temperature changes;
- Ensure the environment you keep them in is moist, but not soggy;
- Regularly feed your worms small amounts, if you forget about them for a couple of weeks, you’ll have no worms left!
- Keep maggots and flies as far away from your worms as possible, the ammonia given off by maggots kills worms!
- Store different types of worms separately, I’m not sure why this applies, but lobworms especially last longer when kept on their own;
- Only take out what worms you need for a session and only return lobs to your stock if they’re still plump and wriggling
In my opinion, unless you are using loads of worms – e.g. if you regularly loose-feed chopped worms – it is not worth investing the time and money required to set up a wormery. They do a great job, but digging around in rotting waste to find your worms is both time consuming and not the most pleasant task! Other options are to use a large, lidded bucket and fill it with your own worm-friendly bedding. Alternatively, there are commercially available “wormkeeper” buckets. These come pre-loaded with a medium ideal for worm-keeping, which will also feed them for a few weeks. I tried one of these and it seemed to work until I failed to seal the lid properly. Some flies got in and laid eggs in the bucket, which became maggots and killed all of my worms in days!
The last – and in my opinion the best – storage method, is to keep the worms in the plastic woven sacks, in which they are delivered when ordered from Willis Worms or Willy Worms (I don’t receive any discounts or endorsements from either of them, they’re just the cheapest mail order worms around and they come in sacks, rather than plastic tubs). Due to their woven nature, they are breathable, so it allows oxygen to get all the way through the bedding; this can’t happen in a plastic tub. As soon as I receive my worms I will add a generous amount of lightly damp moss (the “long-haired” stuff, such as Sphagnum is best). Fresh moss is a great storage medium for worms because it helps regulate the moisture, provides the worms with food and it apparently firms their skin up, making them stay on the hook better. Also, moss will stay alive and green for weeks in the pitch black, so you will only need to replace it every month or so. I also find moss is ideal putting into a bait tub with your worms when you take them fishing. To bulk-up your moss, add damp torn-up newspaper, cardboard and dead leaves, as these are soft and easily digestible by worms.
To keep the temperature of the worms at a constant, I place the sacks inside a polystyrene box and fill any gaps with corrugated cardboard. I fasten the tops of the sacks with rubber bands, which are more than up to the task of keeping the worms inside, whilst being easy to open when you need to. Another way to keep the worms cool in warm weather is to place the sack inside a bucket, then place this bucket inside a larger bucket which is half-filled with water. This acts as an insulator and also the process of the water evaporating creates a cooling effect.
Feeding your worms is very important and to keep them in top condition, the moss will need boosting with some extra food. Over the years I’ve tried grass, cold mashed potato, tea leaves and even once bought a packet of actual “worm food”! Tea leaves and the worm food were the only ones I had success with. On closer inspection of this worm food, I realised it seemed to be made of about 80% dried mashed potato. So, I devised a far cheaper, but easily as effective food. Buy some “Smash” instant mash potato and put a heaped teaspoon of it into a small mug. Make yourself a cup of tea (or better still, a pot!), and when you remove the teabag, do not squeeze the water out of it. Instead, leave it on the side to cool slightly for a couple of minutes. Once cool, tear open the teabag and pour out the tea leaves into the dry smash. Mix the leaves and smash together for a few seconds with a teaspoon. The result will be a lightly damp, firm stodge. Sprinkle this on top of the soil/newspaper/moss, do not mix it in. Check back in a few days and remove any uneaten food to prevent it becoming mouldy, as this could prove fatal to your worms. Do this on a weekly basis and if your worm food is all disappearing within a couple of days, try adding a bit more.
Hopefully this will have given you some insight into the basics of keeping worms longer term and will help you pamper these premier baits to help you catch the specimen of your dreams!