The Truth About the Sandworm Shortage
Matt Amatruda of Guilford and Ben Lockhart of Madison paired up on a day that saw some good striped bass catch-and-release fishing. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Paul Deluca hooked into this nice 23-inch weakfish while fishing from the Branford shore. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
Monte “Limo” Gibbs of Killingworth, fisher and third-generation chimney sweep, landed this respectable lunker bass caught in a local pond. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )
We have been reporting about sandworm shortages associated with the state of Maine for several years. In fact, my column “The ABC’s of Seaworm Shortages in New England,” published Aug. 3, 2011, gave an overview and condition of the industry at that time. Here we are, some nine years later, and the problem still exists—even more so.
The only difference is that the typical New England fishers are struggling more to locate one of their favorite baits, Nereis virens. Whether this species of worm is a relatively good producer of fish because it’s a natural and lively bait or just one to which fishers have grown accustomed remains to be seen. However, over the years, fishers around the world have recognized the sandworm as a prime bait and the demand has soared.
From a simple New England distribution channel, this Maine industry has taken on the world at the expense of its countrymen. The worm flats are overworked, harvester numbers are dwindling, and the worms sold throughout New England are fewer in number. You would think that the future for them for is bleak—and rightfully so.
Au contraire! True, all of the aforementioned is accurate and then some. Enter the saying, “Follow the money,” and a truer picture emerges. According to the State of Maine’s Commercial Landings data from 1964 through 2019, roughly 202.6 million pounds of live worms, valued at $21.6 million, was harvested and sold in 1964. Fast forward to 2019’s preliminary figures and you will see that 216.7 million pounds of live worms were harvested; only now, they were valued at $673.9 million. This was a drop of roughly 310 million pounds valued at $750 million from 2016.
So where are all the worms going? It is clear they are not going to the New England market, considering the constant shortages experienced. However, the commercial revenue received has generously climbed. The answer lies with the increase in international trade. Simply put, that market is willing to pay more than we New Englanders and, therefore, more worms are being shipped elsewhere.
If Mother Nature cannot keep up with the increase in harvests, the worm beds continue to receive the pressure they’re receiving, and market price keeps increasing to offset shortages, then Maine’s sandworm industry will continue to decline as the U.S. marketplace totally dries up. In the meantime, fishers are discovering how, when, and where to use other bait alternatives during these trying times and are doing so effectively.
On the Water
After a short break from the tropical weather, we bounced right back into thick air engulfed in morning fog. We experienced a deluge of rain, amounting to 2.17 inches along the immediate shoreline, interrupting clamming, followed by 2.1 million gallons of sewage spilled into the Mill River in Hamden. That spill closed the waters to fishing and many beaches to swimming. Then came Tropical Storm Fay with high winds and swollen seas that were forecast to flood several low-lying areas, although that never really panned out. Soon thereafter, the easterly winds subsided and tidal changes cleaned the Sound.
Just prior to the storm, striped bass in excess of 40 inches were being caught from several of the inshore reefs using live eels and drifting bucktails. Both offshore and in deeper water, jerking wire and diamond jigging scored decent catches, while chunk baits did well in both instances. Due to the heat, evening and early morning tides turned out to be the best options, even though daytime produced more than a few surprises. For those fishers on light gear, there are plenty of schoolies that will oblige, taking a particular interest in soft plastics and topwater plugs.
The sea trout (weakfish) bite continues with catches of keeper-size fish being caught from shore—more than last week. They have also been caught when drifting or trolling along several offshore reefs using small baits. Small bluefish are also being picked up while jigging, trolling umbrella rigs, casting spoons, and dunking chunks.
There’s not much change in the black sea bass action other than it eased off a bit. One-hundred feet are where the humpbacks have been located and they’re still taking squid and a variety of colored rigs. Porgy (scup) continues to be hot, with good sizes caught. Squid and clams are producing quality fish in the absence of a steady flow of the harder-to-find sea worms. Summer flounder (fluke) hunters are still looking for the elusive doormat that seems harder to locate since the bout with the recent weather activity. Fluke aren’t fond of unsettled and murky water, and that can be problematic with fast current and strong winds, especially inshore.
There are an assortment of other bottom fish being caught, including sea robins, sand sharks, and skate, most of which are above average in size. Blue crabbing is improving following the weather events and, for anyone looking toward the freshwater, flows and levels are better for trout fishing, while lakes and ponds are bristling with the typical species including bass, perch, pickerel, crappie, and sunfish. Bring along some insect repellent!
Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.
For all things fishy including bait, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...