Collecting bloodworm

A match has ended on a freezing cold canal. The scalesman makes his way down the bank. It doesn’t take long – three-quarters of the competitors have blanked! But there’s a rumour that someone, somewhere, has caught.

An interested group clusters around the scales as you gather up your net. You tip the gudgeon, small roach and perch gently into the weighing net. The needle quivers to a standstill. ‘Three – eight – four,’ says the scalesman as he records your weight. ‘He’ll have done it with that won’t he?’ says one competitor. ‘What did you have them on?’ enquires another. ‘Bloodworm,’ you say, glad now that you went to the trouble of collecting them. And just for a while you bathe in the glory that goes with a match win -just until you wake up, that is!

Arguments from ignorance

Seriously though, bloodworm can be so match. Since many tackle shops sell bloodworm it is unreasonable to argue that it isn’t readily available.

If you want larger quantities, or much higher quality bait, then you may have to collect it. But even this specialized job may not be as difficult as you thought and if you take the trouble to collect it then you deserve to beat those who do not.

Finding a pool

Bloodworms are the larvae of midges, and they live in the mud at the bottom of most still waters. Collectors use a long narrow blade to scrape the worms from the mud. Secret waters According to Nigel Bull, finding the right kind of water is the most difficult part – once you’ve got that right you are 99% of the way there.

Although most waters have some bloodworm, not many contain them in large enough quantities to make them worth bothering with. Some waters are unsuitable because they are too deep, or the mud is too soft to collect them safely. Not surprisingly, once an angler finds a good source, he tends to keep its location secret. Where there’s muck… Look for a small pond on land where cattle graze. Small amounts of animal wastes draining into the water encourage bloodworms to colonize it.

A layer of soft mud about 30-45cm deep is essential for the worms to live in, but bear in mind that in order to collect worms you have to wade. Even in shallow water the hazards of wading where there is a soft bottom are obvious.

Make sure that the combined depth of mud and water are such that you can wade safely. Even a pond where the water is only 45cm deep may have a metre or more of soft mud underneath. Be particularly wary of pockets where the mud is much deeper than average. Ideally the mud should be over a firm, level layer of gravel or clay – so that you don’t sink too deep.

A layer of leaves or weed tends to make collecting difficult, so avoid waters surrounded by trees.

Always seek permission from landowners before you start wading in ponds. If the number of collectors is kept to two or three then the owners shouldn’t mind – in fact, they may be only too glad for you to lower their pond’s midge population – though you should only take just enough for a session so that stocks are preserved.

Finding a worm

There’s only one way to find out whether a pond is any good and that is to do some preliminary scraping.

Check the pockets Rather than being evenly dispersed over the whole pond, worms are found in pockets. Sometimes these are only a metre or two square. Areas between pockets produce few worms and can give a misleading impression; but hit one of those pockets and you’ll strike gold. So try several areas before you write a pond off. Look for spots where the mud is soft and clean – free from weed, leaves, twigs and stones. Swarms of midges flying over the water may be a guide to where the worms are -particularly in summer. However, just because you can’t see midges doesn’t mean that there aren’t any worms. Prevailing wind direction Often there is a tendency for the wind to blow towards one end of the pond — pushing the midges and other insect life before it. These areas are always worth a try.

Temperature change In summer – when the water and mud are fairly warm – bloodworms live only inches below the surface of the mud. As temperatures drop they go deeper. In winter you may have to go down 30cm or more to find them.

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