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To Scour or not to Scour Red Wigglers that is the question!

by Les Albjerg
(Caldwell, Idaho)

W.C. Stewart said that scouring Red Wigglers is optional. I have read over half a dozen of the old masters on this subject. This article comes from the conclusion that scouring worms is worth the effort. I am not going to give a detailed history. I am not going to quote all of the old masters. I will share how much easier it is for us in the day we live, much easier than for the old masters.

The three major reasons I like scouring are:

1. It prepares the worm to be more attractive to the fish. I know this is subjective, but fish seem to take a scoured worm more aggressively than one that isn't scoured. My most objective test was two weeks ago on sunfish. I caught 24 sunfish in 30 minutes on scoured worms and 14 on non-scoured worms in the second half hour. Thinking that I may have depleted the school, I went back to scoured worms and caught 23 in the next half hour.

2. Scoured worms are tougher. Over the past months, I have noticed that I often catch multiple fish on one worm. My record is 4 fish on one worm. Catching 3 happens often. Doubles are commonplace. The worms remain lively in the water longer as well.

3. Scoured worms are clean and easier to work with. It is nice to pick a clean worm out of clean moss to put on the hook. Fishing your beautiful rod with clean hands makes it much more fun to fish.

So what is scouring? Scouring is cleaning your worms on the outside as well as on the inside. Worms can live up to 5 weeks without food. I will also share the secret of how you can keep scoured worms for up to six months. The following is what I have learned over the last few months.

The old masters gathered moss from around trees as their scouring media. We don't have to do that. Last Saturday just for educational purposes, I gathered a bunch of moss from around the trees in the woods when I was out bear hunting. I went down to the creek and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned the moss. We don't have to do that! Long fibered sphagnum moss is the key to easy scouring. You can buy it at most pet stores. It is sold as terrarium bedding. However the best I have found and at a more reasonable price can be mail ordered from Mosser Lee Company. You can Google it. It is a Wisconsin company. The other things you will need are water, and containers. I use 4 containers. Don't get excited, only one is used continuously. My main scouring container is an old soap container that holds about a quart and a half. The other three are one quart yogurt containers. I will share the secret to keeping worms for up to 6 months at the end. So to conclude this part you need moss, water, and containers. It is that simple.

So how do you scour? The goal of scouring is to clean the worms inside and out as well as slightly dehydrate them. Figure out which container is going to be your main container. Poke some holes in the top. I like a clear top because I want the light to drive the worms down into the moss.

1. Fill the main container about half full of dry moss. Use your spare containers to wash and hydrate the moss. Squeeze the water out of the moss and fluff it back into your main container. Your moss is now ready for worms.

2. Take one of your other containers and put 2 to 6 dozen worms in as free of dirt as possible.

3. Carefully rinse the dirt off the worms as best possible in one of the spare containers. Carefully pour off the water. Then just dump the ball of worms on top of the moss. Do not disturb the worms! Leave them alone! If your top isn't clear, just leave it off and make sure your scouring container is under bright light. In a couple of hours come back and the worms will have burrowed into the moss. You can then pick up the "dirt spot" and either clean that moss and put it back or throw it away. You're done for three days.

4. After three days you can fish your worms. If you are not going fishing, you will need to clean the moss. Get out your spare containers. Most of your worms will be in the bottom. So carefully pull out the moss and put it in the other containers. Have another container for worms. Once you get near the bottom and the concentration of worms, don't worry about separating them from all of the moss. Just dump the ball of worms and moss in with the other worms you have found while pulling your moss.

5. Rinse the moss several times. This first rinsing is the most important. Your worms have cleaned themselves off in the moss, and they have voided themselves, so the moss needs to be cleaned. Squeeze most of the water out of the moss. Fluff it back into your scouring container. I have always missed a few worms and they don't seem to be harmed by squeezing. Dump the worms back on top, and they will work their way down again. I then clean the top moss and put it back. The first cleaning is the most important.

6. I have found that I can wait two weeks after the first cleaning before the moss needs to be cleaned and rehydrated. These worms are ready to be fished after 3 days. So for the next two weeks you just need to pull worms and go fishing!

7. I have kept worms this way for 6 weeks.

There is a way to keep them for 6 months. From reading several of the old masters, I gleaned from them and their various concoctions, what they were really using to prolong their worms was rendered fat! We don't have to render our own fat. I simply bought the cheapest suet at the pet store. I put a piece of suet about the size of a marble in the bottom of the scouring container. The worms won't reproduce, but they will feed off the fat. The fat nourishes them, but it is clear food. So you get a translucent worm that is fatty.

That is it! Simple scouring in 2018!

For your bait box, you will need to use a pair of scissors, and cut some of the long fibered moss. I cut it in 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch lengths. The long fibers are harder to use in the bait box. Moisten the moss and put a few dozen worms in and go fishing! When I get home, I simply put the unused worms back, and then I add about as many as I used fishing. I think it took me longer to write this than it would have taken me to do it. Give it a try! It is simple and effective. I wonder what W.C. Stewart would have thought about how easy it is to scour in our day!

Comments for To Scour or not to Scour Red Wigglers that is the question!

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Apr 28, 2018
Quick scour.....
by: Hoppy D (SD)

Have you tried the "overnight scour," Les?

When we were caught with our worms down, we would do an overnight scour using alum powder. Approximately a teaspoon's worth would be sprinkled on top of the moss, and the worms would come out ready to do battle with any worm-nibbling fish. The only problem was that you could not save the unused worms that went through this process; you just had to keep fishing until you used them all up. Yup, tough deal.....

So, if you are caught with your worms down, try the quick scour method using alum. The worms won't be as clean and tough as they are after a 4-day scour, but they'll still be better than worms that haven't been scoured at all. Give it a try. If only just for fun.....

Apr 28, 2018
great post
by: bill piatek

Great info Les. How about doing a booklet if the whole keeping and scouring process with maybe some fishing tips thrown in.

Betcha Chris would sell it on his site.


Apr 29, 2018
Thanks Guys
by: Les Albjerg

Hoppy - I have used alum on nightcrawlers in the past. I never thought about using it on a Red Wiggler. As W.C. Stewart said, with them, it is optional. He highly recommends scouring all other worms. I had great success before discovering scouring. If I didn't have any Red Wigglers that were scoured, I would not hesitate to fish unscoured Red Wigglers.

Bill - I'm flattered. I have written two training manuals for my day job. As I said to Chris the other day, his website is a "living book." His tab on "Worm Fishing" has not only all of my stuff, but his experiences. Chris told me that he is going to edit my souring article if needed and put it under the "Worm Fishing" tab. It is better than a booklet in my opinion. I really don't want to take the time to write a booklet right now. Besides, I have more experiments going on. Stay tuned! I've been learning way more about Red Wigglers and worms in general than I ever thought I would. Did you know worms have 5 hearts?

Apr 29, 2018
Just as good
by: bill piatek

Well the tab is just as good. Can't wait for your next experiments.

May 25, 2018
Worm tea leftover from Scouring
by: Kelly Peterson (northern Wisconsin)

Guys, that brown colored water leftover from rinsing the moss after worms have defecated/cleaned themselves in it is SUPER for your wife's potted plants or any other plant/tree/shrub in your yard.

I do the cleaning of the moss in a small dish pan-then pour this brown colored "worm tea" on my wife's potted plants and others.

Thanks for all your tips, Les.

May 25, 2018
Worm up-date
by: Les Albjerg

Kelly - I have been doing the same thing, but in the garden. I was working with my worm projects today, and I really need to do another update on some of the new things that I have learned from my experiments.

We need a fishing report Kelly. It can't be frozen in Northern Wisconsin anymore!

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