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As the Worm Turns!

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, ID)

Worm Family

Worm Family

I hope some of you have been inspired by the "Park Avenue" worm ranch idea. One problem with writing an article is you can't have much of a discussion on the blog. So a few other thoughts about playing with worms might inspire you and stimulate a discussion.

In a book by Edward Fitzgibbon written in 1847,he says, "Brandlings (Red Wigglers) are an admirable bait, and may be used without any preparation or scouring." His description on where to find them is far from "The Park Avenue." He says, "You will find them among rotten tan, or in heaps of manure composed chiefly of sweepings from cow houses and swine muck."

One of the reasons my first attempt at the "Park Avenue" worked so well is I put pretty much all pregnant worms in it. Two hundred bred or ready to breed worms multiply fast! In the second picture you can see the swollen clitellum. It is best to leave those worms as they are ready to breed. If you find your worms in a large ball, there is nothing wrong. Don't separate them up. Put on some romantic music, they are producing your next generation of worms. Worms have both male and female organs. They do need a partner. They exchange fluids by coupling at the clitellum. Both worms will lay an egg capsule that has 4 to 14 baby worms.

The first picture is a worm family. A baby worm, a teenage worm, and an adult worm. A healthy worm ranch will have all three.

The third picture is a nice adult worm without a swollen clitellum. This is the perfect worm to fish with! I hope you give Red Wigglers a try.

There is a long tradition of fishing with worms that I am just discovering. Reading some of the old fishing books from England as well as the United States, I am learning a lot about a method of fishing that has more sophistication than I realized. I have several other experiments going on so stay tuned! Share your experiences, and feel free to ask questions. Chris Stewart knows a lot about worm fishing as well. He has pointed me in several informative directions over this past year.

Comments for As the Worm Turns!

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Feb 02, 2018
Thank You.
by: Alan Luecke

Thank you for all of your work and research. I really can't think of a question to ask. My pre worm ranch to do list is quite long, but I have both saved the article in a pdf and printed it off. Good work like this should be kept in a safe place.

This may be the year for true keiryu.Bring on the worms.

Feb 03, 2018
Thanks for all the info!
by: Jeff D

At some point in the near-ish future, I'd like to offer guided keiryu fishing.

Right now, I'm still in the R&D phase, testing rods, learning the various waters in my potential guiding area, and enlisting family and friends who've never keiryu fished to help me learn how to teach and guide keiryu.

I just received a stainless steel compost pail as you recommended, and will be starting up a test Park Ave wriggler ranch ASAP. I know that eventually I'll probably need to scale up, but this will keep me from being dependent on the vagaries of bait stores for the time being. Thanks for all your info!

Feb 03, 2018
Tub Size
by: Les Albjerg


If you do decide to go bigger, I would recommend you study the vermiculture articles found on the internet. I would also use the 18 gallon Rubbermaid tubs. I have been using a 3 and 6 gallon for experimenting too. The 18 is much easier to take care of, and you have a lot more room for worms. I am sure I have at least 5000 in my 18 gallon tub right now. It is going to get a dose of apple leaves, lettuce scraps, coffee grounds, and other organic scraps from the lunch salad today. Raising worms for your guiding business could be profitable too, as you could sell them by the dozen to your clients.

PS Raising them in a tub is much easier than in the Park Avenue. Not that the Park Avenue is that difficult.

Feb 04, 2018
Easiest Red Wiggler Ranch
by: Les Albjerg

I have an old wheelbarrow with a hole in it. I put a bunch of kitchen scraps down on the ground, 200 wigglers, and a wheelbarrow full of grass in the back of the garden. I tipped the wheelbarrow over the scraps and grass last October. I just went out and checked. A mouse ran out when I lifted the wheelbarrow! I dug down about 4 inches and I have a lot of wigglers growing! Not the ideal, but very easy!

Feb 08, 2018
Worm ranch
by: Kelly Peterson (northern WI)

After reading the ultralight worm fishing and red wiggles articles last summer I tried the methods. Couldn’t find any red wigglers locally but plenty of red worms. Now I see the difference having just received my order of red wigglers for my Park Ave worm ranch. Wow they are small but know they will get larger after acclimating from shipping.

After trout season closed here last October 15 I had several cartons of red worms left over so decided to make my own worm ranch to see what happens. Having a styrofoam "worm ranch" container left over from keeping night crawlers decided to use it. Also used traditional worm bedding because I had that too. Kept them in my garage which is heated enough so nothing freezes.

After 2-3 months, took a good look in there yesterday. The red worms originally put in there, about 30-40 or so, have grown in size plus there are lots more in various smaller lengths including some very tiny ones of about an inch. Didn’t count them but would guess at least doubled in quantity. Mind you the container is way too large for the quantity plus the temps in garage were 40-55 tops.

So after reading the Park Avenue Worm Ranch story I immediately moved my existing worm ranch inside where it is warmer, 60-70 degrees. Then I ordered the items for a Park Ave worm ranch and 250 red wigglers. Put approx 175 in Park ave and rest in the other existing ranch to see/compare.

Looking forward to seeing how they progress and to use the excess for fishing brook trout and bluegills along those thin blue lines and tiny lakes.

Mar 30, 2018
Question about worm bedding
by: Kevin Bayes

Thanks for the Park avenue ranch write up! I’m about 3 weeks in on my ranch, and they’re doing great. I’ve got tons of egg clusters and juvenile worms. I have one question, though. When you’re fluffing up the bedding weekly, do you disturb the cardboard bits at the bottom?

Mar 30, 2018
Cardboard bottom
by: Les Albjerg

No, I try to just leave them there on the bottom. In one respect, they are not really necessary. However, they do provide some added food if needed and moisture control.

I am glad to hear the ranch is working well for you.

Apr 11, 2018
? about size of worms
by: Kelly Peterson

I started my worm raising from the bait shop red worms I had left last October when our trout fishing season closed. They did pretty well over the winter in the house. Then when Les wrote about the Park Ave ranch I started one of those as described and changed the bedding in my bigger ranch at that time too. I got 250 red wiggles from a compost guy but because of it being winter here some only survived shipping, maybe 50.

I have basically two sizes of worms, the red wiggles and the larger red worms about 3"+. Suspect these are eauropean crawlers? Or do red wiggles get that big with age?

Am wondering if I should take out the larger worms or are they the breeders?

Also, once the cardboard is gone do you replace it when fluffing up the bedding?

Sorry for all the questions but with everything still iced up, 18"+ of snow still on the ground and another big storm headed our way this weekend I’m still 2-3 weeks away from open water. It’s getting pretty boring not being able to fish and there aren’t any new stories for me to read.

Apr 12, 2018
Cardboard Addition
by: Les Albjerg

You can always add cardboard. I know one guy who uses over 50% Cardboard but he is composting the Cardboard. I like it for food and water control.

A 3 inch Red Wiggler is a monster. I personally wouldn't mix worms. It is OK to pull the bigger worms for scouring or fishing. If you find them breeding in the scouring container, just toss them back in with the regular worms and let them lay their eggs. They are breeding when you find two of them attached together at the Clitellum. If the Clitellum is very swollen the worm has either just breed or is about to breed. I leave them in the composting bucket.

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