Only One Type Of Lugworm ?

For many years when you read a typical guide to the sea shore there appeared various pictures of marine worms usually with a picture of a lugworm with the Latin name Arenicola marina.

The better books also mentioned a tail-less type of lugworm Arenicolides ecaudata.

What was never mentioned was any reference to the larger black lugworm that anglers referred to by various names such as sewie lug, king lug, black lug, yellow tails, gull worms, gullies, Blackpool black, runny downs and no doubt some other names.

Blow Lug And Black Lug – Maybe there is 2 types ?

A few anglers including myself began to question the lack of distinction between what we called blow lug the one with a u-shaped burrow with a cast at one end and an untidy cast at the other and black lugworm which tend to be found around the low water mark and has a burrow which goes straight down with no upturn and a nice neat spiral shaped cast.

I mentioned the differences in the two types of lugworm to various people including a scientist from the British Natural History Museum, the author of a guide to the seashore and even got a comment from the late Mike Clegg from the TV programme Cleggs Peopleâ.

All stated that lugworm where very variable and they were just variations of the same species.

In 1985 in response to a mention of the apparent two types (excluding the tail-less one) of lugworm by Dr Mike Ladle I wrotea letter which appeared in The Anglers Mail again listing the distinct differences, expressing my doubts that they were the same species and stating that while scientists referred to the two types by the same because of there different differences anglers would still have to refer to them by different names.

I was certainly not alone in voicing my doubts, North West angler Phill Williams author of that excellent book Dingy Fishing at Sea was another angler who had come to the same conclusion.

In 1993 Black Lugworm Was  Recognised As A Separate Species.

Eventually a marine biologist decided to investigate and guess what — they discovered that what anglers had been saying for years was true; black lug were indeed a separate species and in 1993 they were recognised as such. It was given the name of Arenicola defodiens.

WhatI did find out subsequent to this was just how long anglers had been referring to the two different worms when I came across the following reference in a book by C. O. Minchin in 1911 :

The most popular of all baits, both with most fishes and most fishermen, is the lug-worm, which rejoices in the pretty scientific name of Arenicola marina.

There are two races or varieties : the common brown kind, which is abundant on every sandy shore in Western Europe, and a darker, tougher and much larger sort, which is called laminary, because its habitat is near the low-water mark.

How To Locate And Dig Lugworm.

So we all know there are two types of lugworm but how do we go about getting them ?

Lets take black lug first. Very much depends on the nature of the ground. If you are very lucky you can find them on dry well drained sand.

In this situation they can be dug with just about any type of implement, even a potato fork. If the worms are very close together you can even trench them. More usually they are found in fairly soft sand which starts collapsing at some point requiring fairly fast digging and also they have to be dug separately.

My personal choice of digging implement is a narrow bladed trenching spade. The one I use has been modified to line up the blade with the handle also, a couple of inches has been trimmed off each side of the blade.

I have seen the traditional three-tined fork used quite successfully but in wet sand the solid blade of the spade has a slight edge.

Digging Black Lug With A Spade.

The technique for digging black lug with a spade is to start digging about 18 ins to 2ft from the cast gradually deepening the hole so that by the time you reach the cast you are about 2 ft deep.

You then carefully pare the sand away, cutting through the worms vertical burrow, until hopefully you can see the tail of the worm.

I prefer to extract the worm by hand at this stage as there is less chance of damaging it but some sink the spade near the worm and lift it on the blade.

Pumping Black Lug

When the ground is too soft to use a spade there is no alternative to the bait pump. I’m no expert with the bait pump but I find it best start over the cast and lean slightly towards the sea as most worms burrows seem to head that way.

I dont sink the pump down to its full depth rather I hold it at about 2/3 depth and suck out a couple of pumps full of sand and hopefully a worm.

As with all bait collecting eventually you develop the subtleties of an effective technique.

Some anglers carry both a fork and pump and use what is appropriate for the type of ground.

Video – Using A Pump For Black Lugworm

If you are intending to keep the worms alive in the fridge for a few days then I find it is best to drop them straight into water and handle them as little as possible.

When they are spawning around October/November they are impossible to keep as they will invariably eject there guts.

Scientists have yet to explain this behaviour. I suspect it is something to do with a reaction to save their eggs and milt as survival response as black lug are often washed out in hugenumbers in very heavy weather. Spawning worms are best gutted straightaway and stored in newspaper in the fridge.

Below : Black Lug  Arenicola defodiens

black lugworm - blow lug

Digging Blow Lug

With blow lug again much depends on the type of ground and the density of casts.

The easiest digging is where there are lots of closecasts in nice clean sand. Here a potato fork is ideal.

The technique employed is usually called trenching. You pick an area with lots of cast and dig it over.

The secret of effective trenching is to keep the hole clear so you can pick up the worms borrows.

With a bit of experience you can learn to predict the position of the worms so you lessen the chances of damaging them with the fork. If the area to be dug is covered in a layer of water as is often the case in a muddy estuary then it is possible to dig a trench around a good bit of ground and drain the water off before extracting the worms.

In some areas like parts of the Humber the worms are not only in fairly hard ground but are often well apart require them to be dug individually.

The technique is to dig along an imaginary line passing from the cast to the blow-hole. Start just before the cast and rapid deepen the hole to the depth that the worm is likely to be found.

Keep the hole clear and follow the burrow until the tail of the worm can be seen.

At this point remove as much material as possible, then sink the fork deeply in front of the blow-hole and leaver the sand and hopefully worm out of the hole.

The same technique can be used on soft sand but there is another technique which I developed myself over twenty years ago. With this technique we use the trenching spade again.

Here again we use the imaginary line between the cast and the blow-hole as our guide.

First a trench is dug parallel to the line but about four inches to one side.

This trench should extend the full length between the cast and the blow-hole and be slightly deeper than the depth the worms is lying at the bottom of its burrow.

Next sink the spade deeply at the other side of our imaginary line to the trench. The best position is near half way between cast and hole but slightly towards the blow-hole end.

Next carefully lever the sand out of the hole without breaking it up.

The worm should be in the sand. Again practice is required but once the technique is mastered it requires far less effort than the fork technique.

With practice very few worms will be damaged. Where worms are dug individually it is important to identify the cast and the associated blow hole.

In bad weather this may be extremely difficult I have even resorted to feeling for the blow hole with my finger tips.

Below my modified spade and an ideal fork a Speare and Jackson drop-forge potato fork – sadly no longer manufactured. Search them out at car boot sales. A squared-tined fork is also useful in very stony ground.

digging lugwormLugworm Article Donated By Forum Member Phil Arnott