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Composting Worms For Fishing

by Tony Schollmeier
(Minneapolis, MN, USA)

Euro - Blue - Brandling

Euro - Blue - Brandling

This is a guide to “composting” worm species, which can be used for bait and readily raised indoors – making them suitable for growing your own. They are also hard to find in bait shops, at least in many locations so you’ll likely be looking online for them and have to wade through misleading and outright incorrect information regarding them.

Commonly solid compositing worms:
Eisenia fetida / Eisenia andrei – Commonly called Red Wigglers, Red Worms, Brandlings, Tiger Worms, Leaf Worms, etc. From here on I'll just refer to these as "Brandlings" for clarity. Taxonomy is a little foggy here but they are most commonly accepted as two different but very closely related species. For our purposes these two species are equivalent and the ones I'd most recommend. The clitellum covers segments 25-30. I'll discuss that more when discussing identification of other species. They have noticeable segments and sometimes a striped appearance in their coloration.

Eisenia hortensis - Commonly called Red Worms (sometimes "Big" or "Super" Reds), Tiger Worms, Garden Worms, or European Nightcrawlers. If you buy Red Worms from a bait shop there is a good chance you'll get these. For lack of better name, I'm going to call these "Euros" as that is the most commonly used name in the composting world as they are compositing worms as well. The most obvious difference between these and Brandlings is the size, Euros grow much bigger. Euros also have noticeable segments and a striped appearance, their clitellum covers segments 26-34. Meaning this worm has a longer "head," but generally I ID them by the larger size. Juveniles are pretty much interchangeable with Brandlings.

Perionyx excavatus - Most commonly called Blue Worms, so I'll stick with that. They are the Rodney Dangerfield of composting worms, more on that later. But they are commonly sold in "composting worm mixes" and some times turn up in sales of supposedly just Brandlings. The key to identification is that the clitellum covers segments 13-17. This means they have a very short "head," the clitellum is much less pronounced than on the Eisenia species - even in breeding condition. The segments are much less obvious on them as well. They are also much more skinny, have a bluish-purple sheen and move faster and differently than Eisenia species (hard to describe but easy to spot).

Indoor raising of worms - I'm not going to go into detail here but the Park Ave Worm Ranch is a good primer on an angling centric ranch. I'm using a "Worm Factory" which is much large operation since I'm looking for compost as well. Relevant to this article, Brandlings are the easiest to raise in large numbers in these types of bins. They are tolerant of the widest range in conditions and reproduce quickly. Euros also do well, though they reproduce more slowly and have a narrower range of acceptable conditions. Both are pretty flexible though. Blues have a habit of roaming away from a perfectly good compost bin for no obvious reason. This may be due to a narrower range of preferred conditions, though they well known for this trait so they may just not be "home bodies". If roaming worms are unacceptable in your household I would stick with Brandlings.

Fishing with composting worms - the good news is that all these worms catch fish. Brandlings are covered all over this site, they make great bait for Trout, Panfish, Suckers, and just about everything else. Scouring them might even make them better, going off the experiments Les did. I'll be trying it myself at some point. Euros are the ones you are most likely to find in a bait shops, so they definitely catch fish. I won't use them for trout or panfish as they often don't get the whole worm in their mouth. However Euros are valid option for Carp and other large species with large mouths (Catfish, Bass, and many others). Blues lastly do catch fish, in my tests they are comparable to Brandlings. However their skinny body and soft skin means noticeably more lost worms. Perhaps scouring would help.

The short version - Brandlings are great, Euros are an option for larger mouthed fish, Blues work but I'd probably not recommend them to any angler. If you buy composting mix worms, you have no idea what you’ll get but I wager you end up with a fair percentage of Blues in the mix.

Comments for Composting Worms For Fishing

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Feb 11, 2018
Thanks Tony!
by: Les Albjerg

I was thinking about writing an article just like this, so a big thank you. A few Blue worms in with your Red Wigglers aren't a big deal. If you want pure Red's you can take your bed down to under 45 degrees for 12 hours and it will kill the blues since they are a tropical worm.

Another worm from Asia is the "Alabama Jumper" (Amynthus Gracilus) It is now considered an invasive species by the National Park Service. It does eat compost, but it also burrows into the ground.

The other worm also used in composting and as a fishing worm is the African Night Crawler (Eudrilus Eugeniae). It doesn't tolerate the cold very well either. They are a large worm as well.

I'll stick with the Red Wigglers for my fishing and composting. They seem to be very easy to raise, and they really do catch fish!

Feb 11, 2018
by: Tony Schollmeier

Thanks Les - I left out the "Alabamba" Jumpers and African Nightcrawlers - they seem to be less commonly sold but they are out there.

Definitely nothing wrong with Blues, they won't hurt anything in the bin and catch fish just fine. Brandlings are just easier to raise and make better bait

My compost bin started out day 1 with fairly equal numbers of Brandlings, Blues and Euros. A year or so later, the Brandlings outnumber the other two by a wide spread, they are just more successful in the conditions my bin sees. My bin lives in the basement and is in the 60s most the time, it might be a different story for someone with a warmer bin.

Feb 11, 2018
Canadian Nightcrawlers
by: Chris Stewart

Also not mentioned - and for two good reasons - are Canadian Nightcrawlers (Lumbricus terrestris), which is what most fishermen mean when they just say "nightcrawlers."

First, they are not composting worms, which is the topic of Tony's submission. They are deep tunnelers and are not suited or sold for composting (or raising indoors).

Second, they are way too big for trout fishing. They would be fine for bass or catfish, but for trout I want a worm that is small enough that when the fish takes the worm it also gets the hook. Many people break them in half, but even half is too big.

I think it is much better to raise brandlings (red wigglers). As Tony and Les have shown in their submissions, the brandlings are easy to raise and they are just the right size for trout and panfish. Plus, they are not too small for bass or catfish. They won't be ignored.

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