Originally published:
Keeping Current
Bangor Hydro Employee Newsletter
Volume 6, Issue 2
March 2008

Trudging into Telcom Drive on a recent morning, my winter blues were lessened by the sight of a wriggling night crawler on the wet
walkway. For many, a lowly worm wouldn’t summon a cheerful feeling, but for some, especially those of my fishing brethren, its
emergence is the surest sign of impending spring, more so than muddy tote roads, pussy willows, and fickle groundhogs. How else could
this humble creature ascend four feet of frozen earth unless winter was finally giving up its stranglehold on the Maine landscape?

Taking care where to tread, the scent of moldering sod and the sound of rushing water from Birch Stream stirred youthful memories of
fishing on opening day. Images came to mind of slogging through granular snow sprinkled with springtail fleas, baiting a hook with fingers
too numb to feel its sharp barb, watching a red and white bobber drifting in an icy flow, and plodding home on cold aching feet with one
less worm and no fish.

Of course, around this time of year on most ponds and lakes in the Greater Bangor region, it'll be a while before you can actually paddle a
canoe from one shore to the other. If you want a reasonable chance of catching a brook trout on April 1st, you must trek to exotic locales
like Lily Pond on Deer Isle where milder coastal weather might allow for an early ice out and a trifling rise in water temperature. Moreover,
your odds are bolstered with a previous autumn stocking of brookies and the fish being ravenous after a long winter sojourn.

Thinking back to boyhood days, bait had to be gathered before a forked alder branch could be strung with trout. Although it was still too
early to dig for angleworms in the garden, night crawlers were plentiful and plump. When I used to live across the river from Bangor, my
Uncle Trevor recommended one of his favorite haunts. It would seem the grassy banks surrounding the old Brewer Library were usually
frost free during much of March. So, outfitted with jacket, gloves, rubber boots, pail, and fresh flashlight batteries, I’d go there on especially
wet evenings. Now, keep in mind, night crawling is an art form, requiring stealth, patience, endurance, and skill. It’s also an activity not
suited for the squeamish.

On the hunt, one must approach with a delicate footfall, lest you hear the telltale sound of elongated bodies retracting into earthen burrows.
When ready, set aside your pail and hunker down slowly while taking time to flex stiffened fingers. With lamp in other hand, illumine the turf
around your feet. Already, there could be dozens of worms recoiling from the bright light, so you have little time to select a target and react.
Using thumb and index finger in a lightning movement, you must take hold of a segmented head in a firm yet gentle pincher grip and pull
with a mild tugging motion. Execution must be flawless; otherwise, you could end up with half a crawler or none at all. If successful, drop
your prize into the pail, wipe your fingers on your pant leg, and repeat a hundred more times.

Now that you have the basics, there are a few important things to keep in mind if you take up this pastime. First of all, when shining the
lawns of public buildings or cemeteries at night, you could have an unexpected visitor as was the case, one rainy evening, when the
Brewer Police questioned me. Fortunately, under the glare of blue strobe lights, my explanation proved convincing, along with my dripping
ball cap and a brimming pail of crawlers. Secondly, always ask for explicit permission from your mom or spouse should you want to keep
bait in the refrigerator. Lastly, if your mom or spouse permits, secure your perforated bait cover, or… Well, you know.

So, the next time you see a night crawler on your way into Telcom Drive, tread careful and don’t be repulsed for this creature is a reliable
sign of spring. That being said, please don’t fret if you come across a Styrofoam container with my name on it in the breakroom fridge, I’m
quite certain the cover is on nice and tight.


                                                                                                           The End
Springtime Ruminations
Maine Travels by John R. Cobb