Red Wiggler Round-Up

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, ID)

It has been an interesting year and a half. For the past 18 months, I have been experimenting with Red Wigglers. My adventure began with treating them like almost any other pet, extreme care! I don't advocate abusing any animal, even if the end result is using them for catching fish. I have run several experiments and would like to share my results so you too can enjoy the simplicity of having Red Wigglers ready to go any time you go fishing.

This past week Josh and I fished one of the better rivers. After I had landed almost 20 fish on Red Wigglers to his one on flies, he took one of my setups and a dozen wigglers and began catching some nice trout. We both caught several nice trout from 14 to 18 inches.

Fishing Setup: I have settled on using the Gamakatsu Amago 7.5 hook over 80% of the time. I like a 12-18 inch leader of Fujino fluorocarbon 6.5x and one Dinsmore #10 split shot 4-6 inches above the hook. The Gamakatsu Amago hook has a shape that leads to almost all lip hook-ups. It's shape really holds the Red Wigglers well. The downside for some using this hook is that you have to snell them. However, this is an upside if you are using the threading technique as you can easily work the Wiggler up on the line because there is no eye.

I use three hooking methods: 1. Hook the worm just behind the band in the middle of the worm in the back and bringing the hook back out about 3/8ths of an inch and moving the worm up past the bend of the hook. This is now my preferred method. 2. Just behind the band on the worm, hook the worm straight through at a 90 degree angle through the worm and then move it up past the bend. 3. Thread the worm from the nose on the hook in the old traditional way.

Raising Worms: Worms are easy to raise. The tough part of raising worms for fishing is that most of the information out there is for raising worms for compost. Here is what you need to know: Worms can live and maintain their health without food for 4-6 weeks. Most of use who are raising them for fishing overfeed our worms. It is better to underfeed than overfeed. I'll share a simple food mix near the end of this article.

You don't have to have a smelly set-up. Several of those who have joined me in raising worms have been over run with worms. Red Wigglers are self-regulating. There is no reason to be over-run with too many worms. Cut back even more on the food if you are getting too many.

Most folks are overwatering their worms. They need a nice moist environment. It has been over 100 degrees the last two weeks where I live, poor Red Wiggler conditions, and mine are doing just great. When it is warm increase the water a little. When it is cooler decrease a little. Worms are not fussy!

Feed them once a week or every two weeks. If you forget for a month they will be OK. At least once a month, get your hands dirty and stir up the medium that you are using to raise the worms. It loosens the soil and gives the worms some stimulation. It also gives you a chance to see how they are doing.

After trying several sizes of containers, I have found that a 3 gallon tote seems to be the ideal for raising Red Wigglers for fishing. A smaller tote requires more care, and a larger one produces more worms than you need. A bucket works, but the larger surface area of a tote allows more worms, and easier harvest.

I like using peat moss as my bedding medium. You can buy a small bag that will last you a year. You can add some sand if you want, but I have found that it isn't really needed. I have found that I can keep my Wigglers in the garage where I live. It does get down in the high 30's in the winter and over 100 degrees in the summer. The Wigglers are tough.

Scouring is optional. I like a 3 day scour on my worms. I have scoured worms for up to 8 months. I use Sphagnum Moss for scouring. It can be bought at most pet stores. I have kept worms for 7 months in scouring material by adding some suet (beef tallow) for them to feed on. There is a whole article on Scouring under the Worm Fishing tab.

My favorite worm food is what I call "Worm Chow." Here is the formula:

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Yellow Corn Meal
1 Cup Oat Flour
1/2 Cup Ground up Oyster Shell
1 tablespoon Sugar

Mix this all thoroughly and store in an airtight container. Feed your worms one to three tablespoons of food every week or two weeks. You don't want a lot of left over food. If you sprinkle it on top, it should be gone in about 24 hours.

So, to sum up raising Red Wigglers, it is easy to try too hard. A three gallon tote, fill it between 1/3 and 1/2 full of moist peat moss, a couple of hundred or more starter worms, some food, and you are ready to go. I spend less that 5 minutes a week caring for my worms now. You can read about setting up your tote under the Worm Fishing Tab.

I like using a burlap cover for my worms. It allows the air to come through for the worms. It is easy to sprinkle water over the burlap and it distributes the water well. If you really neglect your worms like I did in one experiment, the worms will eat the burlap!

In two hours of fishing, I out fished my buddy Josh 20 to 1! I bother with Red Wigglers because they really do work well! It is worth it to me. They are easy to take care of and they are kind of fun to have around.

Comments for Red Wiggler Round-Up

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Aug 16, 2018
How often do you change bedding?
by: Chris Stewart

Les, since you are not raising worms for the compost, how often do you change the bedding?

Aug 16, 2018
Bedding changes
by: Les Albjerg

Chris,

My new rule of thumb is when it begins to smell. My 3 gallon tote has been going now for almost 9 months and it doesn't smell. I have had to change my gallon and a half tote about every 4-5 months. I also changed out another tote of about 2 gallons when the peat moss was getting mushy, but it wasn't smelly. My large 18 gallon tote has been going now for over a year. However, I have added an inch or two of peat moss every 3 months on the larger tote.

Aug 16, 2018
Preferred provider
by: Hoppy D (SD)

What's your preferred brand of crushed oyster shells, Les?

Aug 16, 2018
Fungus Gnats
by: John Evans

Les,
One problem I've encountered in raising worms is fungus gnats. At least that's what I call the pesky little critters that fly around moist bedding. Maybe that's been my problem--too much moisture. Anyway, have you had any experience that way?

Aug 16, 2018
Answers to questions
by: Les Albjerg

Hoppy - I bought "Down to Earth" Oyster Shell flour at Walmart. I also use this product with my peppers and tomatoes in the garden, so getting a bigger bag works for me. Product number Walmart # 562948362. You can get smaller amounts at the pet store.

John - Your top layer is too wet. The burlap solves a multitude of issues.

Aug 20, 2018
A couple "Don'ts"
by: Chris Stewart

John's experiences with fungus gnats reminds me of another problem that many people who keep worms for composting have with their worm bins. Fruit flies! There are a handful of ways people suggest to get rid of fruit flies. Trust me, it is much, much easier to prevent the problem than to fix it. Prevention is incredibly simple. Do not put fruit in the bin!

Composters want to put banana peels, apple cores, etc, etc in their bins because they want to compost food waste rather than just throw it away. If you raise worms for fishing rather than for compost, that isn't a consideration. If you put fruit in the bin, you will eventually get fruit flies. If you never do, you never will. It's really that simple.

Many composters also use put leaves and garden clippings in their worm bins. They then post on facebook asking what all those strange little creatures are in their bins and whether they'll eat the worms. Those strange creatures come in with the leaves. If you leave the leaves out of your bin, those stranger critters will stay out of your bin, too.

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