Many of the Pictou County anglers I have been talking to are reporting a slow start to the fishing season this year. Most lakes remain ice covered, leaving rivers as the only open water available. The water is also very cold, resulting in sluggish trout and difficult fishing.
One of the best baits for early spring fishing for trout continues to be earthworms. While garden worms are good bait the king among worms is the night crawler. Night crawlers get their name from their habit of crawling on the surface of the ground at night. Another common name for them is dew worms referring to the fact they commonly appear when the ground is moist with dew or rain.
This spring finding a supply of worms may be as challenging as catching some trout. When I was in Ferguson’s Sport Shop in early April to buy my fishing licence they told me they were bringing their worms for early season angling from Quebec. I know a guy in New Brunswick who used to have a nice little business supplying worms to sport shops in New Brunswick and Maine. He would bring his early season worms in from France. Later in the spring he used local worm collectors.
However the weather will soon warm up and with it the annual nighttime search for night crawlers. Night crawlers are large worms measuring up to 10 in (25cm) in length. The dark-coloured end is the head where the brain is located and the tail end of the worm is flattened in shape and lighter in colour. While the surface of the worm feels smooth it is actually covered with many tiny bristles. These allow the worm to move and also help to anchor it. If you have ever tried to pull a night crawler out of the ground you know how tightly they can hold on.
Although worms have no ears, they are very sensitive to vibrations in the soil – try walking up to one and see how quickly they can move. Since worms have no lungs they must absorb oxygen directly through their moist skin. If a worm dries out it dies.
While we are familiar with using earth worms as bait there are also a variety of aquatic worms which also make up an important part of the trout diet. These aquatic worms live in sand or silt in lakes or streams and most are fairly small, less than an inch in length and can range in colour from bright red to brown or green. While fishing the real thing is not an option there are a variety of fly patterns designed to imitate these worms and one of the most popular is the San Juan Worm. It is simple a piece or red, brown or green yarn tied on the hook and secured with a wire rib.
Whether you fish the real thing, or an imitation, worms are tough to beat as an early season bait for trout.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.