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Dave's Worms


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Many of us have had a go at catching beach worms at some point or other. They're one creature that really takes time to master gathering, the more you practice the better you get. Not me, after plenty of years, I'm still barely better than when I first tried! Although I can normally get enough for bait, it always takes me ages to get them. I love using them for bait, so I just have to allow a fair bit of time to get enough for what I hope to do.

I've used my fingers, a couple of different types of purpose-made worm pliers and finally, long-nose pliers. The ideal method is to use your fingers, because you don't do much damage to your worm and you can keep it alive for extended periods. The purpose-made worm pliers with the spikes kill them pretty quickly and the graphite ones with the rounded nodules also do damage enough to give the worms more than a headache, however they do live a fair bit longer than the spike caught variety.

After trying all the various methods, for me at least, long-nose pliers seem to work the best, I'm sure all the good wormers will read this and shake their heads, but as I said- for me, long-nose are the go. I like them because I've had the most success using them, theoretically the graphite versions are probably far better, and I know that I've never been able to get more than one or two with my fingers- no matter how hard I've tried, so long-nose it is. The worms usually die within about 24hrs when caught with any sort of pliers, so catching with your fingers is the way to go if you want to keep them 'un-preserved' for any amount of time.

The first time I had a go at doing it, it was on Burning Palms Beach in the Royal National Park. We'd been camped there for a couple of days and the weather was lousy, with only short spaces between persistent rain, if it hadn't been a long weekend we probably would have tracked back to Otford and gone home, but long weekends weren't to be wasted when we were young, so we stayed.

The usual rock fishing wasn't possible, due to the swell being too big to get near the water and we didn't have any bait to fish off the beach. Not being able to get near the rocks, the usual cunje and crab bait wasn't a possibility and the beach doesn't have many pipi's to 'shuffle' for, like most beaches there are a few, but not enough for five fishermen, so the talk turned to beach worms. On a previous trip, we watched one of the hut residents (there's a hut community there) worming and he caught a few nice ones pretty quickly, so we thought we'd give it a go. 

For a worm burley bag we used a keepnet with five T-bone steak bones, not ideal, but all we had, however finding a couple of pipi's to use as hand bait for the worms took ages. We finally found just 2 pippis and decided to take turns if we spotted any worms. 

One thing we'd learned from the hut wormer was that whichever way the wind was blowing from, you'd go to the opposite end of the beach, and as it was a big southerly, we went up the north end right in front of the closed Surf Club shed where we'd seen him get his worms.

Although we raised quite a few worms initially, they never seemed to be 'up' long enough for anyone to get one. At this stage though, we didn't realise that the tide needs to be fairly low and the beach a lot flatter than this steep end we were trying- unless you're really good at it. The worms sense the incoming water and don't hang around for more than a few seconds if the water's up too far, but as the tide started to go out a bit further, we did get a few chances. Nobody managed to get one out in a couple of hours and the burley bag didn't seem to be attracting anything like it did when we started.

There was a smelly dead bird on the beach a bit further down and we added that to the net after whacking it with a rock to release some juices, but before we got the net down to the water a worm revealed itself well away from the really wet sand and I had a go for him. I got him with only my fingers and pulled him out without breaking him. He was less than a foot long, but fairly thick and I later learned this was a 'stumpy' which are found further from the water's edge, but aren't usually very big. We then stopped trying down closer to the water and Doug M got a stumpy as well, but then the rain came back and as we were nearly ten minutes from the tent site, we all ran back to camp.

The rain didn't stop again and we never got to use the two worms before we trudged back to Otford station the next day, but were pretty chuffed that we'd actually managed to catch a couple, regardless it took a few hours.  

Over the years, I've had a go for worms in plenty of different spots and caught a few at places like Zenith and Box beaches at Port Stephens, a couple off Wooyung and a couple more at Burning Palms (we took pliers and used Pilchards in a doubled stocking this time) but had never really found them easy to get until years after the first Burning Palms attempt.

We had been staying at Currarong Caravan Park and fishing Beecroft Peninsula for 'big stuff' and the sea got up really big, wiping out any rock spots we could access. There were locations that would have been suitable, but the side of the headland they were on was closed to the public, due to it being a Naval Bombardment Range, so we only had the option of fishing the beach.

The beach at Currarong has a reef offshore and it doesn't seem that susceptible to larger swell, which break well out from the shore, so we spent a couple of days beach fishing and of course worming. Plenty of worms on the beach there and I really enjoyed being able to catch a fair few without having to put in the usual long effort. Didn't have worm pliers, but had ordinary long-nose in the fishing bag and they worked really well. We turned the worms into a couple of really nice mixed bags of fish and they turned an otherwise wiped out trip fish-wise into a good one.

A couple of years later, we were staying with another mate- Ross S on the south side at Old Errowal Bay and after fishing some of the great rock spots like The Devils Elbow and Moe's Rock, decided to go and spend a night on the beach at Currarong, as the guys wanted to have a beach fish and a go at worming and we already knew there were plenty of worms there.

The spot we picked for our camp for the night was adjacent the only decent looking fishing area we could see- a small hole between sandbanks, with a channel funnelling out seawards, so we decided to set up straight back from there. A quick spin for Tailor and Salmon didn't produce any fish for the five of us, so attention turned to the worms.

For worm burley we took a couple of headless frames from Bonito that we'd caught at the Devils Elbow and after doing the 'pippi shuffle', didn't take that long to find a few pippis for hand bait. The tide was about halfway out and the waves small, as they always seemed to be whenever we'd been to this beach, so into the keepnet went the Bonnie frames and we started waving the net in the small outgoing run off from the waves.

Worms appeared pretty well straight away, and as I was the 'expert' the guys watched while I had first go. Target spotted, pippi waved in the outgoing water and a worm popped up, wait till he bites on the pippi, pliers closed and got him! Success on the very first go, I have to admit I was pretty pleased with myself, considering most of my other worming missions had taken at least a few goes to get the first worm safely into the belt-carried bait bucket. Nods of approval from everyone and "show us again" the call. Without having to move more than a few feet, the next worm was spotted and I got him as well- never before had I caught 2 in 2 goes.

As we only had 3 pairs of pliers, three wormed while one held the burley net and whoever didn't have the pliers tried by hand. We swapped around with the pliers and the burley and really started getting into some 'serious worming' and everyone caught a few. It was almost as much fun as fishing and we decided to catch enough to last the rest of the week, after all, worms catch Whiting and everybody likes eating them, they'd be next on the fishing holiday agenda.

The session ended earlier than we liked, due to the Bonito frames being completely stripped of flesh by the sand and water, and we decided that although it was great for attracting worms. it wasn't ever going to last long- maybe leave the heads on the Bonnies next time?

Shortly after we ran out of burley and were getting organised to have a fish with the worms, one of our other mates Dave D turned up with his family. They'd driven down from Sydney and we were all going to spend the night fishing on the beach, before heading back to Ross's cottage, back on the other side of Jervis Bay. When we told him that no fish had been caught, but we'd got a fair few worms, he was real keen to have a go at catching a worm as he'd never had a try. 

We did have some Pilchards and thought we could maybe use them for worm burley (we left the Bonito fillets salting back at Ross's) so we put a few in the keepnet and I took Dave down to have a go for a worm. Dave held the burley net and I pointed out the little "V" shapes that give away the position of each worm and within a couple of minutes pulled one out. The Pilchards were raising heaps more worms than the Bonito frames did, as all the way from where the incoming water reached and right back to the edge of the ocean there were dozens of worms raising! 

Dave was fascinated by the worms and after I caught one, he took the pliers to try his luck. It took him a few attempts, but he also broke his duck with a decent sized worm, before giving me the pliers back to get another one myself. We moved down a little closer to the ocean, as there were now worms everywhere below the burley bag and there were some big ones, it seemed the closer to the water you got, the bigger the worms are.

Whoever was working the burley stood higher on the beach than the wormer and worked the bag, which was on a long bit of rope (we later learned that the shorter the rope the easier it is to use) and the two man approach worked well. As we didn't need to move much at all, with worms constantly sighted, attention was focused on the next worm target and we didn't realise that the few Pilchards that were in the net were gone. With no actual burley, what was attracting so many worms?

After catching my next worm from the many that popped up, then taking the net and tossing it further up the beach, I noticed that below where Dave was crouching with the pippi hand bait, there were stacks of "V" shaped worm exposures. Only then did I work it out- the worms were being raised by none other than Dave's feet! I started laughing and waved over two of the guys who hadn't started fishing, and quickly explained what I thought was going on. Much laughter and we had to put the theory to the test.

Meanwhile, Dave had caught another worm, oblivious to the fact there was no burley and was showing his wife Pauline and young daughter Laura how to get one. We could see as we approached, that there were stacks of worms still revealing, as each receding wave left and there was no other explanation, they genuinely were attracted to Dave's feet- the only part of him that was affixed to the sand!

When we stopped laughing and I repeated what I'd just told the other two guys, Dave couldn't believe it, not at first anyway. So we had him change positions to the rest of us several times. Each time, wherever he moved to, up came the worms! I've got to tell you, at this point, it was one of the funniest moments of all time! Dave was horrified and freaked out, but great bloke that he is, laughed his head off, same as us. 

The prolonged laughter brought the other two- who'd started fishing about 50 yards away from where we now stood- back over to the group and the whole explanation was told once again. More laughter, heaps more! Dave graciously changed positions to show that it really was him that the worms were interested in .

I need to add now, that Dave's feet don't smell- well not to us anyway, however the worms absolutely loved them. Still gives us a laugh nearly 30 years on and still freaks Dave out!

A couple of years after this trip, the actual section of the beach- which is north of the rock platform called "Hammerhead" was included in the local area marine park habitat protection zone and collecting invertebrates of any type is no longer allowed. Our "secret" worm spot has apparently been well known to the authorities for some time and is now preserved, so no more worming there for anyone. 

If you're down that way and want to see one of the biggest worm colonies you'll ever see, it's only a short walk from the car, but be mindful that the area is patrolled by both fisheries and park rangers, so please don't attempt to take any worms.

 

 

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Love worming, and like you, been doing it for years, but still not that good at it, but it's great fun, my grand kids always want to go, either worming or .nipper pumping. I must admit, I have never tried long nosed pliers, but I will. To keep them long term, I find that just a couple of worms in a small plastic bag, with just a tiny bit of sea water, in the freezer, they come out like new when defrosted, except that last "tail" bit that seems to just go all mushy and black, overnight I just keep then in a bucket with an aerator, or rolled in cool dry sand.

 

 

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OH, and just to add, we used to stay at Currarong every year, and fished around the beach/rock area thousands of times and always caught good Bream, plenty of Worms in Jervis Bay too, and the bonus there is no waves to contend with.

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Thanks again Waza for another great story.

My uncle was a terrific wormer and taught me the art of catching them with my fingers. Being shown the ropes and having where you're going wrong pointed before you get set in your ways out is a huge help to becoming successful. 

One of my mates uses regular, long nosed pliers and wraps the jaws with a couple of layers of electrical tape. This greatly helps in keeping his worms alive longer.

Funnily enough, I've noticed when walking the beach casting a lure, worms are rising down from where I'm standing, just like Dave. Perhaps it's from the large amounts of seafood I ate as a kid. Who knows.

 

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Something I've never tried and never will. Always had more luck getting pippis. Hard enough getting your own earthworms in this (normally) dry country. Not being a gardener doesn't help either. Such is life! bn

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Hi Waza, Now that you have your own section i think the word Famous should precede your username. Thanks again it's keeping me occupied during these lockdowns.

Grandad

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9 hours ago, noelm said:

Love worming, and like you, been doing it for years, but still not that good at it, but it's great fun, my grand kids always want to go, either worming or .nipper pumping. I must admit, I have never tried long nosed pliers, but I will. To keep them long term, I find that just a couple of worms in a small plastic bag, with just a tiny bit of sea water, in the freezer, they come out like new when defrosted, except that last "tail" bit that seems to just go all mushy and black, overnight I just keep then in a bucket with an aerator, or rolled in cool dry sand.

 

 

Hi Noel catching bait is often just as much fun as catching fish! When I was up the north coast all the unused dead worms were given a 30 second metho dip before freezing and they came out really well as the metho evaporates 

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5 hours ago, Green Hornet said:

Thanks again Waza for another great story.

My uncle was a terrific wormer and taught me the art of catching them with my fingers. Being shown the ropes and having where you're going wrong pointed before you get set in your ways out is a huge help to becoming successful. 

One of my mates uses regular, long nosed pliers and wraps the jaws with a couple of layers of electrical tape. This greatly helps in keeping his worms alive longer.

Funnily enough, I've noticed when walking the beach casting a lure, worms are rising down from where I'm standing, just like Dave. Perhaps it's from the large amounts of seafood I ate as a kid. Who knows.

 

Hi Pete using the tape is a fantastic idea.

Don't know why they aren't out of the sand chasing you and I re amounts of fish we ate as kids! Never seen worms anywhere like that area past Hammerhead, but the scientists knew!

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5 hours ago, big Neil said:

Something I've never tried and never will. Always had more luck getting pippis. Hard enough getting your own earthworms in this (normally) dry country. Not being a gardener doesn't help either. Such is life! bn

Hi Neil in most areas- even 'good' worm spots, you just don't see the numbers of them like there are at that spot. I'm a hopeless wormer really, but had no trouble getting them there without much effort at all. 

When I was living up the north coast I found them really hard to catch, but the regular wormers got plenty

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3 hours ago, Burger said:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA   dave's feet HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Good onya waza!

Hi Stu it's freaked Dave out ever since! His feet genuinely don't stink, but whatever it is they are attracted to, they really love him. Normally it's great to have animals like you, but maybe not beach worms!

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3 hours ago, grandad said:

Hi Waza, Now that you have your own section i think the word Famous should precede your username. Thanks again it's keeping me occupied during these lockdowns.

Grandad

Hi Grandad glad you like the stories, I have plenty but am a lousy typist!

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15 minutes ago, wazatherfisherman said:

Hi Pete using the tape is a fantastic idea.

Don't know why they aren't out of the sand chasing you and I re amounts of fish we ate as kids! Never seen worms anywhere like that area past Hammerhead, but the scientists knew!

Hi Waza. I know the spot at Hammerhead you're talking about and oddly enough the next beach north (Culburra Beach) is shaped much the same as Warrain, but shorter and the best worming there is in a similar position.

Great to see you got a Fishy Tale Teller badge too. Well deserved mate.

Edited by Green Hornet
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18 hours ago, wazatherfisherman said:

t's freaked Dave out ever since! His feet genuinely don't stink, but whatever it is they are attracted to, they really love him

Maybe its like Catnip for cats!¬† Shame you can't bottle it!!!¬†ūü§£

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