It Is Still Worms

by Dallas Cross

published in The Issaquah press, April 23, 2008

Earthworms, leeches and sea worms are all segmented and class members of the Annelid animal phylum. Just about everyone's first fish seems to have been caught on a worm. Earthworm is actually misleading because all such worms can and do live in water. Earthworms range from a tenth-inch to several inches long. There are at least ten species of earthworms living in the Northwest, eight of which originated in Europe.

Why should sport fishers be interested in this low life? Simply because worms and leeches are constantly available as natural food to the many species of fish we want to catch. Recently I accompanied a local, professional fly fisherman, Vern Jeremica, to Rocky Ford Creek. Vern announced he was about to get a strike citing a bulge in the surface of the water as the clue that a fish was following his fly. The trout took the fly and was nicely played and brought to Vern's feet. Being a professional fishing companion I dutifully netted his twenty-six inch long Rainbow Trout (see photo below) with a rabbit-fur leech hanging from its mouth. After being trout-snubbed, I finally put on an Annelid imitation fly, a San Juan Worm. I swirled it under a rock outcropping and brought in to release an 18-inch Rainbow. But closer to home the opening of the Eastside Lower Lakes to trout fishing offers a great opportunity to use real worms.

In King and Snohomish Counties there are scores of lakes that open for trout on April 26. Youth, fourteen years old or less, do not need a license and seventy-plus year old citizens get a big break on licenses suggesting an excellent opportunity for these generations to cheaply go fishing together.

Fish and Wildlife has been busy getting ready for the lake fishing season. They have planted many thousands of small rainbow trout in Westside lakes. In addition, from 250 to 750 hybrid, triploid trout averaging one and a half pounds have been planted in each of Angle, Green, Beaver, Meridian, Rattlesnake, and Sawyer Lakes. Further trout and triploid trout plants for some lakes are planned in May.

All these planted fish have been raised in a hatchery and are accustomed to looking up for their food where it was thrown to them. It will take a while for the trout to convert to seeking natural food. So, early in the season concentrate on fishing near the surface, no deeper than the bottom of the pens where they were raised. After a few weeks those trout surviving the first days of angling and the predation of kingfishers and osprey will move to deeper water looking for shelter and natural food. Although fishing with salmon eggs, power bait and small, red marshmallows seems to have the best results in the early days after planting, the reliable angleworm is still good and will prevail in the end.

To fish with worms use a leader of 4 to 6 pound test with size 10 to 6, wide-gap, bait hooks, all tied with a very small swivel to your fishing line. A dangling, wiggling worm is what you want to present. Use either a single hook looped through the midsection of the worm or, better yet, a gang rig with two hooks. Bunching of the worm on a hook really doesn't help except to keep bait on the hook for fish to refuse. Trout have an aversion to serine, probably because it is found in abundance on bear paws. We have this amino acid on our hands, men much more than boys or women. This suggests who should put the worm on the hook.

A bobber can be used for casting to trout feeding in the upper layer of the water. The weight of the hook should take the worm down. To fish near the bottom of the lake attach a small, lead shot sinker to the line. Connect it so that the leader allows the worm to rise out of the muck that lies at the bottom of most lakes. To get your worm to float and be seen you should string a small "Corkie" on the leader, or hook up the worm with a floating mini-marshmallow to get the best of both worlds. The most realistic method is to inflate a little air beneath the worm's skin in a section behind its front quarter using a tiny needle and syringe. There are commercial "worm pumps" that work as well.

Now stay gently connected by touch to your waving worm so you can feel the light tug of it being sucked up by the fish. Then, assist your fish in setting the hook by lifting the rod until the line is snuggly tight, don't yank, hand the pole to the kid with you and yell, FISH ON.

Vern Jeremica

Vern Jeremica and Rocky Ford Trout