From March into December, Carl Morse is at it up to four nights a week,
collecting thousands and thousands of worms. There was a time when he supplied
them for his own bait shop, and years ago employed 18 pickers to help out. Now,
the retired 66-year old continues catching and selling worms as a hobby- and still
enjoys it. The secret is to know where to go and when.
MORSE: You get worms in rich, dark soil and no wind. Wind keeps 'em in, too. If
it's say, a 10 mile per hour wind, it's alright. But if it's windy, they all go
down- inside of two minutes they're gone. And then you get 'em on the dews, too.
Alot of times there's a heavy dew- they're all over the place. Heavy rain will
make them go down, maybe 20 feet. And when it gets awful bright, they won't come
out. They're very sensitive to light.
Worms will come out when the temperature is in the low 50s, during the first
half of the month, the new moon days. The worms burrow to the surface looking
for mates. And Carl, on hands and knees with a miner's-type hat shining down
grazes thgrough the area.
MORSE: The main thing is the clover, that's the secret. They come up and feed
on top of clover. You can see 'em heading for it. And sometimes I just scoop
'em up- they're out all the way. You have to have fast hands- my hands are fast.
Kind of like a machine, with both hands. I tell ya, worms are as quick as the eye
almost. All of a sudden- whoosh- they're gone.
Morse supplies just one bait shop: Walsh's Outdoor World on Lake Avenue,
getting 35 dollars per one thousand worms. During hot spells that fee can almost
triple. Carl is making between 50 and 100 during a good hour's work.
MORSE: Once we took home- this is the truth- during the rain, I got 7 thousand
in one night in four and a half hours. Some years when I had the pickers, it was
around 1 million 8-hundrerd thousand. In the last year I only picked.. oh, about
Morse doesn't bother the mating worms.They're making more product for him
to grab later. And he doesn't have time to fight with worms that have retreated
almost entirelly back into their holes.
MORSE: My hands are so sensiitive.. if he's not coming out of there I just let
go right away instantly, like a flash- in a split second. And I go on to the
next one. So I probably break about five. Other people would break 150 or 200
before they could get 50 worms. There's alot to it.
Carl won't reveal his personal hot spots for worms. He's been drawing from
one area where he estimates 20 million worms routinely show up. But golf courses
are a popular location. Knowing the watering schedule is a big help for those
areas. Storing the worms correctly also is critical. And Morse uses a half-and-half
formula of store-bought worm bedding and organic black peat moss.
MORSE: I make sure the worms aren't too wet. You don't want them too wet 'cause
they'll die within the next day. You keep 'em between 42 and 50 degrees.. that's
the best, you know, they'll live better. I kept 3 thousand night crawlers for two
After nearly 40 years of picking, Carl Morse figures he's picked over 35 million
worms. He keeps himself on a diet of fish and milk and soaks his knees in brine
once a year to keep those other legs tough.
MORSE: I mean, I can pick 'em. I can close my eyes- I tried it once. I didn't get
many- about 25 in about.. 30 minutes. There's probably other guys who can pick as
good as me. I'm not the best- there's always somebody better…but I'd like to bet 'em. (laughs)
Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370