The first thing to remember if you want your ragworm to stay alive for longer is to always is to always try and get your ragworm as close to the start of your fishing session as possible since they won’t last forever. This doesn’t mean you have to run the risk of not being able to buy any just before your session as more often than not you can phone the tackle shop in advance and ask them to put some by for you when it comes in on the day you intend to fish – just let them know when you will be there to pick it up.
When you do have to store ragworm though (ie. During or after your fishing session) remember that the longer you can keep them in a cool, dark place, the longer they will last. In fact, maybe that should be rule number one…
Unfortunately ragworm can’t be used after being frozen as the freezing process kills them – and since half the attraction to fish is that they wriggle in the water, the dead ones are next to useless as they cease to be quite so active. Remember: Guns don’t kill rag, freezers do.
So, how else can you best look after your ragworm?
Where possible, keep your ragworm wrapped in their newspaper and put that in a small coolbox along with any frozen baits you may have. Try and keep the lid on when you are not using it and keep it out of the sun. This ‘extreme coolbox discipline’ will help you keep the same batch of ragworm for several fishing sessions if necessary.
Between Fishing Sessions:
There are two schools of though on how to best keep your ragworm alive between fishing sessions, but whichever way you choose store them always keep them in a cool dark place. The two main methods used to keep ragworm alive for longer are the dry and the wet method.
Put your remaining ragworm in either peat or vermiculite (both substrates are widely available in garden centres) and then loosely wrap them in newspaper. Then, pop this parcel in the fridge and check on it every day or 2 to remove any dead worms. Dead ragworms will seriously affect the lifespan of the others.
Unless you’ve had dead worms sitting in the substrate for too long it can be reused or alternatively you can sprinkle it on the garden.
If they were fresh when you bought them, ragworm should last for several days using this method.
Another effective way to keep your ragworms alive for longer is by storing them in sea water. The first wet method is to shallow fill something like a cat litter tray – but really shallow, like just enough to cover the bottom – and then put the worms in. You can lay seaweed/newspaper/a damp tea towel over the top of this if you wish, but most importantly keep the tray in the fridge. Remember to collect more sea water than you need so you can change it every couple of days. This water is best kept in the fridge also so the new water is introduced at the same temperature as the old. Pick out any dead worms as soon as you see them as they will trash the water.
The second wet method is to go the whole hog and set up a deep live bait tank . It may sound ridiculous at first, but it is possible.
The quick fix is to put a deep container filled with collected seawater in the fridge and have a small air pump clipped to the side (air stone in the water). Put your bait in this and to be on the safe side change at least 50% or the water every other day. The larger and more frequent the changes are (up to a point: you have to weigh up water quality with disruption caused by the changes) the better environment you will maintain for your ragworm, although the downside to this is that you will need to collect A LOT of sea water to accomodate the water changes.
The more permanent (but much more involved) method, however, is to build ‘proper’ live bait tank . If you are in it for the long run and think you will want to store bait often then this is definitely the way to go.