Marine Worms

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by Stonefish, Apr 6, 2014.

  1. My buddy John and I hit the canal this morning for cutts. We had a few shots but pretty slow overall. A few schools of chum fry were spotted as well.

    We happened to run into something I've never witnessed in over 50 years of fishing the local salt. I've seen worms before but never this highly concentrated.
    I'm not sure if this was marine worms spawn or if it was a worm hatch. If someone knows please chime in.
    This was only in an area on the beach that was maybe 20 yards long at the most. There were thousands of worms everywhere in that small area with none anywhere else on the beach. It was on the only sandy area in that stretch of beach.
    A gal who worked for WDFW saw us looking at them and came down for a look. She mentioned she hadn't ever seen worms so heavily concentrated either.

    Some of them seemed to almost be falling apart with many high and dry as the tide went out. John picked one up and a white matter started coming out of it. Perhaps sperm?
    The size and color variety was pretty amazing. They went color wise from red, neon green, tan, olive etc.
    I've got some video I'll post up later. Here are a few pics.

  2. In the Doug Rose book on the Olympic Peninsula, there is a chapter on a sea run cutthroat diet study mentioning Polychaete worms and their mating swarms. These could be Polychaete worms but I am not sure.
  3. I've heard from several guys that they have hit worm "hatches" or spawning groups/balls and subsequentially hammered big cutts feeding on them. I have never seen it, but now I really want to. Thats awesome.
  4. Here are a couple very short videos of the worms moving through the water.

    Pat Lat likes this.
  5. Sounds like spawning worms. Everything I've read about them suggests we're getting into the right time of year for it, and that they rupture as part of the act. That would explain the dead ones you saw. Pretty cool! I've never seen it myself.
  6. Damn that sounds like a real bummer, I mean you finally get an invite to an orgy, you got the time, the tide, the place, and you're there and all excited about getting lucky and just when the mojo is really working then BAM you blow up and die...

    there's another creature for the "i don't want to be reincarnated as a....."
    Mark Mercer, KevinLS, c1eddy and 5 others like this.
  7. Would you say no to an orgy where the sex is so good that people are literally exploding?

    I'd take my chances. lol
    KevinLS, c1eddy and plaegreid like this.

  8. Like Barry White (when he was alive), I got so much to give. I'd have to think about that question long and hard... I mean isn't that how they sorta recruit suicide bombers, only the 40 virgins are on a layaway plan, plus Stonefish is there videotaping the whole thing, putting it up on the net for everyone to see, like some kind of sick worm snuff film....
    KevinLS, c1eddy and Jonnytutu like this.
  9. Ok, things just got weird. :D

    I've always wanted to hit cutts feeding on spawning worms. I've yet to come across it though.
  10. Very cool observations, Stonefish. I agree with you and everyone else that these polychaete aggregations are the results of spawning swarms, probably from the previous night. What you observed were the after affects of the orgy.

    The female worms release chemicals which attract males. Both are actually quick swimmers. When a male is close, the females release a stream of eggs and the males fertilize them; often both disintegrate in the process. In some polychaete species, their bodies produce special mating segments (epitoke, see that break off from the main body and swim up into the water column.

    It is hard for these species with external fertilization to ensure that eggs and sperm are released temporally and spatially close enough for a high frequency to be fertilized. This is behind the apparent synchony of spawning in many species, often based on moon/tide cues. At the Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island, where I did research for many years, you might find one animal in a sea table would start spilling sperm or eggs and the next thing you knew, every animal in that sea table would be doing the same. [One of the major concerns with the drop in pinto abalone numbers is that their densities in the field may be so low that there aren't enough individuals close enough for effective fertilization to occur - an extinction spiral.] I looked at the tide/moon chart for last night and it wasn't anything special, neither a new or full moon.

  11. What an amazing thing to have the opportunity to witness - and with a camera handy!!!
    Thanks for showing us. Now I won't just be looking for riseforms - I'll be watching where I'm walking.
  12. Nice documentation, I've always heard, seen pics but never video footage. All I can think of is a Marabou Leech type of pattern or rabbit strip... :D Big flies.
  13. Steve,
    Thanks for the info.
    We picked up a few that broke in half and one half of the worm was still able to swim away.
    In the last picture, you can see kind of a white area. My buddy John touched the light olive worm with his hemostats and it just kind of blew up and emitted a white matter which I assume sperm.
    As I mentioned, this was a first time seeing something like this for me. That is what I like about fishing the local salt. You can still discover new things even after years of fishing it. We are really lucky to have the big salt pond right out our back door.
    Alexander likes this.
  14. I wonder if the SRC only bother with them at a certain stage (color) for them to worth their wile as a meal.
  15. These Polychaete worms are Nereis vexillosa, sometimes called mussel worms or piling worms, a very important food item for cutthroat. During spawning periods they swarm. This occurs usually at night winter to spring. They then break up into gamete filled pieces called epitokes which can be quite colorful as noted above. The female epitoke has a red posterior. Epitokes burst releasing eggs and sperm.
    Stonefish and cabezon like this.
  16. Ewww, gross! ;)
  17. I find this thread very interesting and educational.
  18. I want to come up with an "egg and sperm" fly pattern...
  19. The gig harbor fly shop has several colors in polychaete worm imitations. They have been my box for 3 years as part of my core assortment and they are one of my year round go to flies.
  20. I also have good luck fishing the poly worm imitations first seen at Gig Harbor Fly Shop. Very easy to tie.

    Deadly from a kayak. My personal theory is sometimes the fish hit the worm trying to break it up... I often get tap-tap-tap strikes and when I set the hook find some of my biggest sea runs of the season.

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