The drawing of this curious and not too presentable creature will serve to identify a very valuable worm. Its favourite haunts are the odorous banks of mud in estuaries and harbours. In such places ragworms frequently swarm in thousands, and a quantity will be dug for a few pence by any fisherboy. There is a larger kind of ragworm which is found among the rocks far away from the harbour mud. These are comparatively scarce, and are the same as, or akin to, the worm which I have described as making its abiding place at the extreme end of the whelk shell inhabited by the hermit crab. There are not a few places on the South coast where these baits are unobtainable, and in many a likely looking spot I have searched for them in vain.
The best way of keeping ragworms is to put them in a shallow wooden box with a cover. They must on no account be heaped up together, and if placed in a small tin should be mixed up with seaweed. For keeping any quantity a large box is required, well pitched inside. A little fresh sea water should be flowed over the worms every day. A convenient-sized box for taking out fishing is one about two or three inches deep, ten inches long, and six inches wide. The worms should be kept at all times in as cool a place as possible and out of the sun, the large ragworms perhaps keeping best in sand or seaweed. The placing of these worms for a night in powdered saltpetre or salt has been advised. I have not experimented with this process, which kills the worms and is supposed to toughen them.
There are two ways of using ragworms. Two or three may be hooked through the head and used as a whiffing bait; or they may be placed on moderate-sized hooks and fished with a paternoster near the bottom. There they will take flat fish, eels, smelts, mullet, and, in fact, all kinds of fish. Large ragworms are said to eat smaller ones. Two or three small hooks one above the other form a good tackle on which to use these worms. Catch each hook once in the worm, the head being on the upper hook.