February 27, 2017 — It’s a dirty job, but digging for blood and sand worms along the Maine coast can pay well, particularly in areas of the state where it can be hard to make a living. Maine’s annual harvest of these popular bait worms, however, continues to decline, posing a quandary for marine biologists who cite climate change and predation as possible factors.
Wormers, as they’re called, would like to work with marine biologists to ensure a healthy and robust industry.
As he walks across the mud flats off Beals Island, worm digger Donnie Bayrd feels the suction of silt pull at his boots. He twists each foot slightly from side to side to prevent the mud from closing in around his boot — an occupational hazard that has brought down more than one wormer into the muddy flats.
Bayrd says it’s worth the trouble to brave the fragrant and unforgiving mud flats of Washington County in search of these creatures, which can also bite. Sport fishermen, he says, pay to have the worms flown around the world and have been known to try and make them last.
“They cut these up in pieces and fish with them. The bigger the worm, the better they like it because they can get a half-dozen pieces out of them,” he says.