Fishing and Economics: A Lesson in Worm-O-Nomics

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Fishing and Economics: A Lesson in Worm-O-Nomics
(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

For those who missed it, gas prices jumped considerably during the past week. July 4th is tomorrow, we fuel-guzzling Americans know all too well what that means.

However, before you start hyperventilating or popping some Paxil, just remember that it could be worse. Much worse.

You see, Exxon and Chevron have nothing on Mike’s Bait Shop.

Mike’s provides live bait to be sold at convenience stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and other eastern states. Obviously, if you are shopping at a convenience store you aren’t shopping for value, but for the convenience of not having to run the extra five miles to a larger store. For that convenience, you expect to pay a little extra for your loaf of bread, gallon of milk, or Snickers bar.

But paying $3.89 for a dozen Canadian nightcrawlers is just plain ridiculous, no matter where you buy them. You can buy one gallon of milk, one-and-a-half gallons of gas, or three loaves of bread for the same price as 12 worms.

However, that’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. According to various online sources, the average nightcrawler weighs approximately one gram. (Seems a little light for a nightcrawler, but who am I to question information found on the internet?) So, for $3.89, you get 12 grams of worm.

That converts to $9.20 an ounce, or $147.14 per pound of nightcrawler.

That may be short of the gold standard (currently $913 per ounce of gold), yet nightcrawlers, at $9.20 an ounce, rank up with plenty of other high-end products.

Silver right now is selling for $14 an ounce. Ritzy perfume Chanel No. 5 can be found for sale online for $11 an ounce. High-end pure maple syrup sells for 57 cents an ounce. Whitefish caviar sells for $6.75 an ounce. Black Truffle Puree sells for $13.71 an ounce.

Pretty disturbing, especially if you’ve driven on a local rural road at night during a soaking rainstorm. During the 20-mile drive home from work the other night, I must have killed well over $1,000 worth of worms.

At least fuel prices aren’t as unbearable as they were last year. Goodbye gas-gouging, hello worm-gouging.

Who is confronting the live bait industry? Who’s protecting us small-time, procrastinating fishermen who forget the bucket of garden worms at home and swing into the Turkey Hill on the way to the trout stream?

Of course, the only real solution is to take matters into our own, individual hands. Buying your worms in bulk drops the price considerably. Taking a little time in the backyard with a shovel helps out even more.

While roto-tilling our garden this spring, and taking care of a septic problem, we made an extra effort at the Zaktansky homestead to harvest the worms we found while digging. They currently live in a neat styrofoam worm habitat my wife purchased for me two years ago.

There are plenty of alternative live bait options online. For those who like fishing with waxworms, which is my bait of choice for trout fishing, there is a waxworm breeder kit for $24.95 at www.waxwormkit.com. According to information at that site, you can use the kit to raise “hundreds—even thousands” of waxworms.

Not only does this sound like a neat family project (yes, to some of us raising little white worms that resemble maggots can be considered neat), but it is a good investment. At the convenience store, two dozen waxworms are $3.89. That means for the same price of a waxworm breeding kit, you would only get six containers—or 144 waxworms.

No matter how you personally deal with the treacherous economics surrounding live bait buying, there are two lessons here. Some pre-planning, getting back to basics, and doing more for yourself isn’t just a smart way to prepare for a fishing trip, but also makes a wise lifestyle choice for those trying to tackle bigger economic situations.

And the other lesson?

If a pound of nightcrawlers costs $147.14, just imagine how much you are worth!

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