One of the simple pleasures in life is striving to be more self sufficient. I feel at times we as a society are losing this seemingly innate ability, instead being lulled into complacency. Perhaps it’s our “modern” lifestyle or perhaps something harder to define but either way, fewer and fewer people seem to be catching their own bait these days. While there is nothing wrong with buying worms from the local convenience store, those who do not at least understand how to harvest their own fishing bait are missing a vital part of the entire cycle.
As a kid, one of the most interesting parts of any fishing trip happened days before when we would grab flashlights and quietly sneak across the lawn in search of night crawlers. If it rained earlier in the day, the evening was sure to entice dozens of large crawlers to emerge from their tunnels. Contrary to popular opinion, night crawlers do not emerge from their tunnels for fear of drowning. Instead, rain and high humidity allow worms of all species to move above the ground at night without fear of drying out and dying. Above the surface, worms can move about more freely than underground to explore new territory and find food.
While finding night crawlers is a relatively easy task, extracting them from their burrows requires practice. Night crawlers are covered in tiny bristles or setae that help them crawl as well as serving to anchor them firmly in their burrows. To pull a night crawler out of its burrow, a person must apply gentle but constant pulling pressure. Too little and the worm slips away, too much and the worm breaks in half.
A quick search of the internet will yield many other interesting ways to catch worms, including using dish soap, car batteries and even chainsaws. While I like technology just as much as the next person, I have to say that in this case, I am just going to stick to the old methods and leave the “high tech” worm catching methods to the professionals.
Considering that Night Crawlers are relatively easy and also fun to catch, I typically release back to the yard any worms not used after a day of fishing. Those wanting to keep their worms for an extended amount of time should make sure to provide the worms with a healthy place to live so they do not die. For those looking to get something quick and easy, the Frabill Habitat II Worm Box with Super-Gro Bedding ($13) is available on Amazon and a great choice. Just follow the easy directions, add worms and your night crawlers will last for months. Anglers looking for a homemade option can fill an old foam cooler or large plastic tote with potting soil, peat moss, coffee grounds, leaves, shredded newspaper and vegetable scraps. Mix all of the ingredients together, add a small amount of water to make everything moist and add worms. If kept in a cool location like a cellar worms will keep for months. Occasionally, check on amount of vegetable matter and add more if qualities look low.
Beyond the practical use of worms, fishing, the end product of all of the vegetable matter passing through an earthworm’s digestive systems is vermicompost or worm castings. Vermicompost contains 100 times more beneficial bacteria and fungi than can be found in typical topsoil and is one of the most highly prized plant fertilizers. Anglers looking to begin worm farming rather than just keeping worms for bait would be well served to check out raising Red Wigglers. Red Wigglers are perhaps one of the easiest worms to keep due to their ability to adapt to temperature and humidity extremes that would likely kill other worm species. Red Wigglers also make great fishing bait for a wide variety of fish species.
Bobber fishing for trout is one of my favorite spring time activities. There is something about watching a fish gently tugging on the end of that line that gets young and old alike excited. Seeing the bobber emit those small ripples then suddenly, plop under goes the bobber and the angler yanks the line taunt. In Central Maine, many of the waters we fish are now stocked (sometimes multiple times a year!) with hatchery raised fish. A secret to catching hatchery raised fish, that was told to me years ago by a fisheries biologist, is to attach a small red bead to the fishing line just above the hook. Hatchery raised fish can become stressed and die if they are exposed to too much human contact. Therefore, hatchery raised fish are fed on demand by a small metal arm tipped with a red bead suspended just above the surface of the water. When a fish is hungry, it is “trained” to nose the small red bead and PRESTO, food drops into the water. Soon, all of the fish in the tank learn that little red bead means food.
Central Maine anglers looking for the “Big One” this spring fishing season should check out Savade Pond (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 13, C-3), McGrath Pond (Map 20, E-5) and Cochnewagon Pond (Map 12, D-2). These bodies of water were stocked in 2017 with brook trout hatchery brood stock from 18-20 inches.