|  First Published: December 2008

The way that I pull beachworms is a little like the way that I operate computer programs. Without any formal training, I have developed my own awkward style that while clumsy and impractical to the trained IT technician, it gets the job done.

Over the years I have read plenty about the art of catching beachworms, but 20 years ago I managed to get my fingers around a worm and rip him from the sand and have now based my style on repeating that success. So in the following are some notes on the easy way to pull a worm and the way that I have been removing them. So with some practice, and it will take practice, you will be able to adopt your own technique for removing these slippery customers from their gritty home.

First of all, beachworms differ little from you standard garden worm, in the sense that they eat anything that is dead or decaying. A lot of the time this keeps them well underground but the scent of something on the surface that they can get their teeth into will have them popping their heads up for a bite.

They move through the sand by stretching and contracting their bodies. To pop out of the sand, they stretch until their head is exposed and to retreat, they contract, pulling themselves down up to half a metre below the surface. It can be funny watching potential wormers spotting the head of a worm and then attempt to dig it from its home. Without the use of an excavator, this is going to be tricky so let me show you another way.

To find out how many worms are in the area you need them to poke their head out of the sand, therefore you need some stink bait. Traditionally, this is an onion sack full of old fish heads and frames that is washed around in the receding waves. Nice and stinky and certainly capable of raising a head or two but not being a fan of carrying around a bag of fish heads, I wash a pilchard around the waves that works just as well. I usually have a pilchard or two on hand when fishing the beach as well so it’s less stink and less fuss. When I used to beachworm a few times a week, I used to freeze small blocks of tuna oil and have that in a bag and on a stake in the sand where the wave action would wash the oil around as it defrosts and attract the worms.

The lower the tide, the bigger the worms and what we refer to as big tiger-heads are found on the big lows of the spring tides. Having said that, these worms are lot harder to catch so start off with standard beachworms that can be found from the bottom third of the tide.

Once the stink bait has raised a head or two, you will need to give them something that they can try to take a bite of. This is known as hand bait and a pilchard or fresh fish skin is good, but a pipi is usually best. By placing the hand bait on the sand where the worm was spotted, wait for him to come up again and try to bite into the hand bait.

How this process works is the worm will feel around and try and get a hold of the bait. By keeping the hand bait a few centimetres from the worm, you will entice more of the worm out of the hole, making it easier to get a hold of later. When the worm has hold of the hand bait, you will see him start to arch his back. This is because he is stretching himself out as much as he can before he instantly contracts, disappearing deep into the sand with a tiny chunk of your hand bait.

When teaching new players about beachworming, I encourage them to play with the worm and allow them to tear chunks of hand bait away just so they get a feel for the timing of this process. This is very important later on so just allow the worm a free feed so you understand how it eats the hand bait.

Getting them out of the sand is not about being faster than the worm. Lesson number one is that no human finger is ever going to be quicker than a worm. So having your fingers in a chop stick position waiting for the worm to come out of the sand will lead to nothing but frustration and maybe a few laughs from the experienced wormers.

Worms can’t see so they will happy rub up against you and your fingers as long as there is no movement that will alarm them to danger. As soon as they are spooked, they disappear and rarely do they come back out.

Once you have allowed a few worms to rip off some hand bait, practice allowing the worm to run through your fingers without getting spooked and disappearing. This is the secret to how I catch worms. Slow gentle movement of the fingers so you can position the worm between the preferred fingers to pull it from its hole. Once in position, wait for the worm to arch its back and then squeeze the fingers together and remove the worm.

Worming is all about getting the feel for the worm between your fingers and a good practice session is studying how beachworms feed. The above process sounds slow but once you have the hang of it, you can get worms up and out very quickly. Store them overnight in either plenty of clean water or in most sand. Only store complete worms and change water and sand daily.


(1) Entice them out a little with the hand bait and have your fingers in the sand, allowing the worms to slide over them.

(2) Slowly position your fingers to have a loose pinch hold on the worm. I have the worm between my thumb and the middle of my index finger but use whatever is comfortable for you.

(3) Once the worm has arched and is just about to contract, tighten the hold that you already have on the worm and pull it out all in the same motion.

(4) If you hold but don’t pull out, the worm will contract with such force that it will tear its own head off. No jerky movements, and if you have a loose grip on the worm it will be simply a solid pinch and slide it out of the sand.

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