Scouring your Worms! - An Introduction.

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, ID)

Clean moss for scouring

Clean moss for scouring

If you participate on this forum, you need to be prepared to learn more than you might bargain for. Chris asked me if I had ever scoured my worms. To be honest, I hadn't really heard much about scouring. So, thanks to the internet, I began doing research. Almost everything I found was written before 1900. I have learned a lot more about worms than I thought I would.

So what is scouring? It is a process of caring for your worms that makes them (1) tougher; (2) more lively; and (3) more colorful. I will share the process that I have tried and the results. In my research, I have found several methods used by the old masters. The good news is according to several of the authors Red Wigglers called "Brandlings" in England don't require scouring. I will quote one of the masters:

According to "A Handbook of Angling; Teaching Fly-Fishing, Trolling, Bottom Fishing, and Salmon Fishing; with the Natural History of River Fish and the best Modes" by Edward Fitzgibbon, 1847, at the end of his discussion on "Brandlings" he says, "They are an admirable bait, and may be used without any preparation or scouring."

That said, his lengthy description of scouring, and the affect it has on the worms made me want to give it a try. To quote him again he says, "Nor does the circumstance of keeping them in moss create any change except that of rendering them beautifully transparent and if anything more lively."

So how do you scour your worms? Here is a compilation of what I learned from several sources. You need three things: 1. A clean container. 2. Clean water. 3. Clean Moss. So, to make life simple I used two one quart used yogurt containers. One top with holes in it. Getting clean moss was way easier for me than the old masters. I didn't gather it from trees, pick out the sticks and debris, and wash it. I went to the pet store and bought a package of terrarium moss bedding. It has been cleaned and is sterile.

Step one: Moisten the moss. Get it wet, squeeze the water out, and fluff it up into the container. You don't want it too wet. Part of the toughening process is to dehydrate the worms a little.

Step two: Separate out the number of worms you want to scour from your worm ranch. In my experiment this week, I used two dozen. It was hard to get the dirt off, so I gave them a bath. I put the adult worms in another small container and ran a little water over them. I drained the water and had nice clean Wigglers.

Step three: I gently dumped them on top of the moss. Put the cover on top. You're done for the day.

According to several authors you should wash the moss every three days. Scouring should take from 3-5 days to complete. For my experiment, I checked the worms daily. According to W.C. Stewart in THE PRACTICAL ANGLER, Red Wigglers take 3 days to scour.

So here is what is happening to the worms. The clean moss is cleaning the outside of the worms as they crawl around in it. The lack of food is cleaning out their digestive system. The lower moisture content is toughening them up. The following is my experience.

Day one: The Red Wigglers tails became much pinker. The clitellum became more pronounced. The head was a nice red color. Moving the moss to the second container as well as the worms and doing an inspection, I could see that worms had vented a lot of dark material. Once transferred and my detective worm done, I left them alone.

Day two: The Red Wigglers were a little livelier, there was a lot less dark material. The tails began developing some beautiful rings. The head was a little lighter red.

Day three: The Red Wigglers were even more lively. The rings on the tail are an orange yellow. Very stunning. I tried to take pictures, but it just didn't capture it like I wanted. The Wigglers are tougher.

I wasn't able to go fishing as planned today. However, I did sacrifice four worms to test Scouring. I filled a five gallon bucket with water. While hooking the scoured worms you could feel the skin was tougher. I also hooked two unscoured worms The unscoured worms remained lively in the water for 6 minutes for one and 8 minutes for the other. The scoured worms remained lively for almost twice as long, 14 and 16 minutes. I am sure both scoured and unscoured worms will catch fish.

To scour or to not scour? That is the question! According to Fitzgibbon it is optional with Red Wigglers. I caught hundreds of fish last year without scouring. Personally, I am going to be scouring my Red Wigglers from now on. I see three advantages. 1. The Red Wigglers are tougher and the hook holds better. 2. The Red Wigglers are lively longer in the water. 3. Clean moss in bait box makes it easier to get the worms out and is less messy than taking some bedding out of the Ranch.

Scoured worms should last up to two weeks. If you aren't going fishing, put them back in with your other worms. Pull another two or three dozen and start again! This is basic scouring.

Is there more to come? Yes! I am testing some advanced techniques that I came across in my research. If the techniques pan out, I will let you know. The good news is that if the one works you can keep scoured worms for at least two months! I'm having fun! Thanks Chris. If I don't have scoured worms, I'll still go Red Wiggler fishing.

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