Building a Fishing Wormery

There is lots of information on the internet concerning wormeries and how to build one.  However, a lot of this information concentrates itself on how to build wormeries for “composting” or doing your bit to reduce kitchen waste going to land fill.  Admirable as these types of wormeries are, they do not meet the needs of the angler who seeks to have a constant supply of high quality worms for their fishing.  In order to meet the demand for this type of bait the wormery needs to be slightly different to the composting variety and because a regular supply is required there needs to be special emphasis applied to the feeding and breeding stages.  Building a Fishing Wormery.

Firstly you will need the housing for your wormery and there are different types all doing the same job.  What follows here are my methods which are tried and tested not only by myself, but by others who have achieved 100% success in breeding worms for use as fishing bait.  This is my basic set up and you will require four 60 litre capacity plastic storage bins of the type photographed  here.  Alternatively you could use other types of plastic storage bins but make sure they have good fitting lids. You will also require a 2mm drill bit and drill for the ventilation/drainage holes, wooden slats to separate the storage bins as they are kept as a stack on one top of each other,  compost and some dead leaves completes the items you require to get you going.  Oh, and the important part, your first brood of worms but more on that later.

Obtain bins that have perfectly flat tops so the lids sit flush.  Some storage bins have slight serrations where the lid handles are so avoid this type as the worms can escape via these serrated edges.  Remove the lids and drill a series of 2mm holes about an inch below the top beneath the lids.  Drill these as in the photograph at each end and each side of the bins.  Then drill “just a few” holes in the bottom.   Because the housing required for breeding fishing worms is different to that of composting worms there is little need for substantial drainage as just a few holes is perfect and helps to keep the moisture in.

Now with your bins drilled and ready put some dry dead leaves in the bottom of each bin.  About 2 inches deep is about right.  (this depth will actually reduce to less than half an inch once the wormery has been built.  Look through the leaves for signs of slugs and snails and discard any you find as these will eat the food intended for your worms.  Some people advocate the use of shredded paper for this bottom bedding but I don’t use it as some printing inks used today contain chemicals not best suited for worms.  With your dry leaves added, use a watering can to “sprinkle” water “sparingly” over them.   You are looking to create slight dampness nothing more.  Now add your compost.  I use “Westland” multipurpose.  As you add the compost press it down “lightly” in stages until you have filled your bins to within 3 inches from the top of each bin.  Use the watering can again to sprinkle water over each bin.  Here you are looking to “dampen” the compost but “NOT” soak it.  Add a couple of inches of dry leaves and sprinkle that with water.  With each bin completed you are ready to add your worms.  You are looking for the bin to be filled within a couple of inches from the top to allow room for the worms food.  Once the bedding (compost) settles the gap between the top of the bedding and the lid will get bigger.

At this stage its worth telling you more about the worms you will be using.  These are Denrobaenas and they are undoubtedly the champions when it comes to using worms for bait as they have all the advantages required for home breeding.  For fishing purposes they are unrivalled being extremely tough and very active instantly attracting fish in the vicinity they are cast.  For breeding they are also highly suited for home and commercial purposes combined.  In favourable conditions, a single worm will produce about 2 young per week.  Cocoons or eggs are laid which usually contain 1 worm, sometimes more, taking anything from 40 to 128 days to hatch.  Once hatched, they look like transparent thin slivers taking anywhere between 57 and 86 days to reach sexual maturity.  They will stand moisture (but do better if the conditions are damp not soggy ) and can tolerate slightly acid soils which means that their bedding only requires attention periodically (more on this later)  Dendro’s are good eaters and will eat all suitable food fed to them.  However in order to maximise their size and breeding capacity the better quality that their food is the bigger they will grow.

So with your bins ready, it’s time to add your worms.  I have found that with this size of bin a good starter population for each bin is half a kilo of adult worms and the number per kilo will vary depending on the size you buy them in at.  Therefore you will require 2 kilos of worms with half a kilo going into each bin.  Once the worms have been introduced stack each bin on top of each other and separate each bin with two 4×1 inch wooden slats per bin as in my photograph.  On the top bin I place a paving slab which keeps the lid on the top bin secure.  There you have it then, your starter fishing wormery.  It will take around three to four months for this wormery to become actively productive.

Feeding the Worms.

This type of wormery does not work like a composting wormery so don’t start adding green un cooked kitchen waste.  Your worms want instant access to food so a much better diet would be either mashed potato, damp mashed stale bread, cooked and mashed veg or cooked mashed root veg.  I actually use “Layers Mash” which is around 17% protein, very easy to prepare and a large bag lasts a long time.  To begin with feed your worms fairly sparingly.  Two cups full of food per bin is a good start.  Place the food in the middle of the surface on top (don’t mix in with the bedding) the
worms will access the food from beneath during the day and will come out on top during the darkness.  Only add more food when you see the food diminishing and always feed by how much the worms are eating.   Feeding will slow down during the cold snaps in winter whilst feeding activity will be at full steam during the summer months.  Keep your eye on your worms to see how much food they require during the year.

Looking After Your Worms.

It’s a good idea to empty out each bin every two months.  No need to change the bedding as the emptying is intended to check the compost acidity and rectify the acidity levels plus creating added oxygen within the bedding by its removal and replacement back in the bins.  Worms breathe through their skins so benefit from having their bedding stirred up periodically.  Carefully remove any leaves and food on the surface and keep separately, then tip out the compost bedding.  I tip mine into one of those very large black plastic trays sold in garden centres that are approximately 2×4 feet long with 6 inch sides.  Once you do this keep your eyes open and you will not only see worms that have been bred in all of their growth stages but also the hundreds and hundreds of eggs that have been laid. These are fairly large around 3-4mm with the freshly laid ones looking like little lemons in shape and colour.  As these eggs approach their hatching stages they turn a golden bronze then dark brown before hatching.  Check the PH levels of the bedding.  I use a simple probe tester I purchased from the garden centre.

You are looking for a neutral balance of just over 7.  Anything below 7 is going towards acid so requires correction.  The addition of “crushed” (must be crushed) egg shells periodically helps to keep the acid down but what I use is Calcium Carbonate or Crushed Limestone available from garden centres by the box for a couple of pounds.  DO NOT use hydrated lime as this will kill your worms.  A reading of just below 7 in a 60 litre bin can be easily corrected by adding a cup full of crushed limestone.  I replace the wormery bedding once a year with new compost and dry dead leaves.  The old bedding from the wormery goes into my runner bean trench and makes for heavy cropping from the runner bean plants so nothing is wasted.

Harvesting Your Worms.

Not all fishing trips will require worms as bait but for those that do (a great many of mine) you will need a supply of nice fat healthy worms to entice those big fish to bite.  For my “fishing” worms I have a separate 60 litre bin that I keep topped up by removing worms from each bin in the wormery to the “fattening” or “fishing bin”.   These worms are fed exclusively on layers mash which increases their size.  It is from this bin I harvest my worms on the day for use as bait.  Of course even these worms will carry on breeding so even the fishing bin becomes a breeding centre!  The amount of worms required for a fishing trip varies from angler to angler.  Some anglers like to add chopped worms to their loose feed so more worms will be required for a days fishing.  I tend to try and catch the bigger fish so mostly fish with worms on the hook with no worms required for loose feeding.  I will be writing an article soon on How To Fish With Worms when I will be going over how to fish this brilliant bait successfully.

Where to Site Your Wormery.

Your worms require shade in the summer to keep them cool, and protection from severe cold weather in the depths of winter.  I keep my wormery in the shadiest part of my garden at the side of a shed which is situated beneath a large maple tree.  As such it receives no direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day so the temperature within the wormery stays ambient for their needs.  In the winter with frost around I cover the wormery stack with hessian sheet, the same stuff that bricklayers use for covering their work on cold days.  This keeps a lot of the frost away but when really severe weather arrives where the temperature will be minus degrees for long periods I move my wormery into an empty green house or the summer house and even turn a small electric low wattage heater on during the long cold nights if the weather gets really cold.  Dendrobaenas are very tough worms and will stand a good amount of cold weather.  Even so, the wormery should never be allowed to freeze solid as this will kill them.

If you find thousands of small white midge looking creatures, or small flies in your wormery don’t worry its quite normal and part of the natural decaying process.  A healthy wormery will have no smell to it at all or perhaps a slight “earthy” smell which again is natural.  If your worms are happy they will remain hidden in the bedding during the day coming up at night to feed.  If your worms are up on top during the day then something is wrong.  Worms on the top during the day probably means they are hungry so make sure they are always fed enough food.  It could be the bedding is too wet (very soggy) and this is easily remedied by emptying the wormery and adding more drier compost.  Worms on top could also mean the bedding has grown too acid so check the acid levels as well.  Checking the acid levels every couple of months only takes seconds and stops the acid levels getting high.

In Conclusion.

Keeping a fishing wormery is never about filling a bin and walking away expecting to find it laden with worm’s months later if you don’t look after them.  But with a minimal amount of effort and general husbandry you could provide yourself with perhaps the most effective fishing bait there is.   There is nothing more satisfying than feeling rod after rod bent over with a fish on your line that was enticed to take the fat wriggling worm you bred yourself.  You will probably find it prudent to add another wormery stack if you have the room.  Unless you are taking worms for your fishing on a regular basis your worms will probably out breed your requirements so creating another stack makes good husbandry sense.  Failing that you could always sell a few or give some away to fishing buddies.

The humble worm is perhaps man’s oldest ally when it comes to catching fish.  As effective today as ever it was and fishing bait that has stood the test of time without ever “blowing”.

Fish just love worms!!!