Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Red Worm

My life in appalachia red worm

red worm noun common term in the mountains for an earthworm.
1936 LAMSAS (Madison Co NC, Swain Co NC). 1949 Kurath Word Geog East US 74-75 Red worm is the usual expression in the mountains of North Carolina and the adjoining parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, and relics of it occur in Pennsylvania, which may be the original home of this term. 1958 Newton Dialect Vocab = common term in the mountains for an earthworm. 1966-67 DARE = common worm used as bait (Cherokee NC, Gatlinburg TN). 1980 Smokies Heritage 171 Bait was whatever they could find. “Red worm, grasshoppers and black crickets,” said Walter Cole.

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Knowing where to find red worms by the gazillions was valuable information to the barefoot fishermen I hung with as a kid. I hope it’s still valuable to at least a few today.


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    April 5, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Well, I don’t like to use these creatures as bait. People buy really fancy sorts of compost bins these days, but my Daddy had the simplest compost maker of all. Just dug a pit and put leaves, grass, kitchen scraps in and made sure it was full of red worms. Best compost of all, and cheapest. Daddy stopped hunting, but sure did like to fish and always had a good supply of worms to pick from.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 4, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    There ain’t a fish in the world that can resist what Ken calls the “wast nest larvie”. You better be faster and smarter than a fish because they will take it and be somewhere else before you even know they were there.

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    My backyard is full of these delectable fish foods!! I still love to fish with them and the fish like them too! Yecedrah

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    You can take slabs of pasteboard or plywood, lay it down flat on grass and after a couple of days, get a baccer can and go to grabbin’ when you turn it over. I’ve caught many a nice trout with redworms. They’re actually better bait than nightcrawlers.
    Nowadays I fly fish mostly, but I
    love tipping my flies with wast
    nest larvie…Ken

  • Reply
    Tim Ryan
    April 4, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    Have you heard of ‘fiddling’ for worms. You saw off a sapling about 2′ above the ground….then take a handsaw and saw into the top of the stob. The vibrations sent down through the roots drive the worms to the surface where you can catch them.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 4, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Tipper–Red worms were a big part of my boyhood years, thanks to a marvelously misspent youth involving a lot of river fishing along with fly fishing in trout streams. The same held true for night crawlers (a cash crop at one cents each). A third type of worm was what we called a “chicken worm” thanks to them being plentiful in chicken lots. The were yellowish-brown in color and about two-thirds the size of a red worm.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 4, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    I have been breaking up some newground to expand my little garden. There are way too many roots and rocks to use a tiller so I’m turning it one shovelful at a time. In almost every shovelful I see at least one rock and at least one redworm. I have been picking out the roots and rocks but leaving the worms where they are. My plan must be working because the part I worked up last year is teeming with worms now. If my garden fails to produce this year, I can still eat ……… …………….. fish!

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 4, 2015 at 11:14 am

    We called them “fishing worms”.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    April 4, 2015 at 11:04 am

    I thought everyone knew that redworms are better Trout bait than nightcrawlers due to their smaller size while the nightcrawlers are better for larger species such as catfish, Bass & Walleye and the wigglers emit an odor that fish seem to find offensive. The bare-foot angler, Needmore, NC.

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 10:03 am

    What is the Night Crawlers worms called in the Mountains of NC called?

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 10:01 am

    We called the smaller worms, red wigglers, and prefered them over the larger earth worm/night crawlers for fish bait. They were more active and seemed to last longer.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 4, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Turn over the soil near the composting winter leaves, grab before they slide back down in the little holes. If the soil is damp…turn up the many flower pots, rocks etc…gathering another handful or so. Need more, go to the soil on the side of the barn or chicken house where the weeds are the greenest, shovel up several clumps for more red worms.
    When all else fails….Sneak away your Daddy’s sharpest hand saw. Walk out into the woodland several yards, cut down a sapling about 2 1/2 feet off the ground. Slowly drag the saw across the cut off portion of the tree, that is still in the ground, as if you were playing a fiddle. This makes a vibration motion all the way into the earth and around the sapling trunk…Soon the worms will come to the top of the ground around and under the leaves. The vibration and noise imitates ‘rain fall’ tricking the worms to come to the surface.
    Fill your bucket, take your Daddy’s saw back to the shed. Grab your poles and go fishing.
    We have done this numerous times when there has been a dry spell.
    This is known as “Fiddling for Worms”
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 8:46 am

    My grandson goes out in the field at night with his flashligh and a five gallon bucket and comes home with a few hundred worms in fifteen minutes. He asked me for a flashlight that wasn’t LED. He said they won’t work… He could have picked up a thousand worms on my driveway after our six inches of rain in two days.

  • Reply
    Vernon Kimsey
    April 4, 2015 at 8:33 am

    My grandfather used to keep a worm bed. It was always an exciting time when he would say, “Let’s go dig some worms and go fishing”

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Hi Tipper,Memory lane 65 years ago.Brother Richard and I would eather get angleworms or nightcrawers for a fishing trip to lake Harriet,a small lake just below G-ma Fergies farm.Nightcrawers we cought at night with a flashlight-angleworms were dug.It was a 2 1/2 mile barefooted walk to the lake and visit to G-ma’s in Oregon Wi.Thanks for the memory.God Bless.

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 8:05 am

    … or you can “farm” your own in your compost pile (plants only). Did you know that banana peels, cantalope rind and avocado skins are worm aphrodisiacs!?

  • Reply
    April 4, 2015 at 8:04 am

    Some of those critters can sure get big, but they usually slither away as soon as you uncover them while gardening. Slithering critters are not my favorit creatures.

  • Reply
    Tim Mclemore
    April 4, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Back in the day we would go fiddling for worms, you would go to the base of the mountain and care the dullest had saw you could find (usually the one you carried the most just for fiddling) and saw down a sapling about 8 to 10 in off he ground and lightly saw across the top and make the ground vibrate, the fiddle worms would come to the top and you could pick them up by the hundreds, if you were in a good spot.. Once they stopped you could move to another spot and get more… Those were the good days…just memories now..

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 4, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Seems pretty smart to me to call it a red worm, thereby distinguishing from all the other worms that come from the earth!

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