Worm Work




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By Dan Beard

The Work which Angle-Worms Do.

Painstaking scientific men have made careful calculations, and claim that an acre of ordinary land suitable for worms contains fifty-three thousand angle worms! If bait is ever scarce, it is because the worms in a long-continued drought or during very cold weather burrow deeply into the ground, sometimes to the distance of eight feet, which is too long a distance to dig for bait. It takes very little imagination on the part of the reader to consider that fifty-three thousand worms, all busy taking earth from below and piling it above ground, can do a great deal in a few thousand years.

Without the assistance which angleworms render by preparing the soil to receive the seeds, many plants would become extinct. We reward the creature by impaling his wriggling body on hooks, and by using him as bait for fish. Digging for worms is always laborious work, and all fishermen should know

How to Collect Angle-Worms

at night, when they are above ground, and you need no spade and laborious digging to catch them. If there has been a warm shower, the conditions for a big harvest of worms is perfect. Take a lantern and a pail or a box and sally forth. If you step softly, and hold your lantern close to the ground, you will see hundreds of worms in the wet grass, in the open footpath and by the roadside, great fat fellows called night crawlers, that will make any hungry fish's mouth water.

Last summer I saw a mysterious light moving over my front lawn, and when I investigated its origin, I discovered a boy with a pail and a lantern, catching worms. When he saw a worm, be would snatch it as quickly as any robin.

But that is not the best manner to capture them. When You see a worm lying on the ground, you will discover, if you look carefully, that it has one end of its slippery body hidden in its burrow, but what you cannot see is that the stiff bristles are firmly hooked in the soil in the hole. At a moment's notice the worm can draw itself out of sight, by simply contracting its muscles. If you will gently place your finger on the end of the worm's body at the burrow, you will frighten this end of his body, so to speak, and cause it to let go its hold. But as soon as the worm, in its endeavor to escape from the enemy at home, does this, it is helpless, and you may pick it up and put it in your pail, which will soon be filled with good bait.

Different Varieties.

There are many varieties of angle-worms known to the fisherman. Whether they are varieties recognized by the scientist or not, is of no importance here, but we all know that some worms are strong, lusty, dark in color, and will live some time on the hook; while others are weak, flabby, light in color, and soon die on the hook. Mr. J. Harrington Keene, in Harper's Young People for July 23, 1889, describes worms, which he calls the garden-worm, the brandling, a manure-heap-worm, the cockspur, with golden spots on its tail, the marsh-worm, to be found in boggy places, and the flag-worm, found at the roots of the sweet flag.

In Isaac Walton's "Complete Angler," he speaks of the garden-worm as the "lob-worm," and then enumerates the other varieties as the red-worm of the manure heaps, and the brandling or yellow-worm, ringed with red, of manure-heaps and tan-heaps. His description of these worms seems to correspond to the varieties enumerated by Mr. J. Harrington Keene.

Fish will bite at all of these worms, but for large fish I have found the night crawlers and the marsh or mud-worm, the most tempting. Since writing the last sentence I tried a big night-crawler with success upon a sly old trout which has resisted the tempting bait of anglers for years. After you have collected your bait the next thing to know is

How to Keep Angle-Worms Healthy and Well.

Put them in any sort of clean tin box. Place the cover of the box on a piece of soft plank, and with a hammer and nail, make a number of holes in the cover to admit air. Gather some fresh moss, and cover your angle-worm with it. Put in plenty of moss, and no earth, except that which naturally adheres to the moss. The moss should be moist but not wet. Leave enough space between the top of the moss and the cover to form an air-chamber.

In this box your bait not only will not die, but will grow stronger and better day by day. When you wish a fresh bait, pull out the wad of moss, and you will find the worms hanging from the bottom like so many bits of string. Keep the box in some damp, cool place, where it will be sheltered from the rain and sun.

I have often heard that if you tap on the ground the worms will come out of their holes. This is probably an ancient legend without truth. Some old Long Islanders, however, assert that the worms will think the noise to be rain, and hasten above ground to prevent being washed out and drowned.

How to Bring the Worms out of their Holes

A writer in La Nature makes the statement that the earth-worms can be quickly forced to come above ground, by pouring a solution of blue vitriol (cupric sulphate) on the ground. Ten grams of blue vitriol to a quart of water is given as the proper mixture.  Ordinary soap-suds is good for the same purpose, and, if the water is pretty warm, it acts all the quicker.  There is little danger of scalding the bait, for the water cools very rapidly when dashed on the ground.  I have frequently noticed the earth-worms crawling around where the laundresses have emptied their tubs.  Cold, fresh water will doubtless have the same effect, though possibly the worms will take more time in making their appearance upon the surface.

In a publication of the Lakeside Library, called " Fish and Fishing," the following directions are given for preserving worms for bait

" Procure some fresh mutton suet, cut it fine, and boil it in a quart of water till dissolved; then dip into this two or three large pieces of coarse, new wrapper, large enough to supply each variety of worms, which should not be mixed together. When these are cold, put them into separate earthen jars, with some damp earth and the worms which are to be kept, and tie over all a piece of open, coarse muslin."







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.