When the Lake Tashmoo Worm Turns

A Photo Essay by Phil Cronin


          During the new moon of late May, a fly fishing fraternity on Martha’s Vineyard trade in their 9 weights and squid flies for 7 weight rods and "worm" patterns. Who would have thought that some of the year’s best striper fishing would be on the backside of one of this Island’s smallest salt-water ponds?  Chart of Lake TashmooThose who fish the annual Nereidae spawn know that this is the ultimate in light tackle fly rodding. It is the occasion when conquering a thirty plus inch bass with a one inch fly is commonplace. It is a five-day window of opportunity that leaves a 360-day memory. Fishing the worm hatch on Martha’s Vineyard is the ultimate saltwater fly-fishing adventure.

          Sometime around the third week in May each year a daily reconnaissance of Lake Tashmoo is conducted by several Vineyard long-rodders. They travel down to the backside of the pond and watch the birds. They paddle out on canoes and tin boats to scan the surface film for signs of Phylum Annalida – Worms! In particular, they look for Cinder worms (Family Nereidae).  When the signs indicate the hatch has begun, a discreet call-to-arms is sounded and the dozen or so Vineyard flyrod wormers scratch out the next five days on their appointment calendars. Life as we know it comes to an abrupt halt for these fishermen.

          Cinder worms are slender worms that become elongated and flattened during their annual spawn. They go through a metamorphose that includes the development of a paddle on their tail so they can swim to the surface. When spawning occurs these mud burrowers leave their safe environment and travel to the surface film of the water where they will swim with a mate and leave their sperm and eggs to drop back down to the muddy bottom. These 2-4 inch cinder worms will propagate their species and then die. As they swim in the upper columns of their liquid habitat, they become the prey of fish and fowl. Striped bass, hickory shad, terns, gulls, and cormorants all find the plethora of worms irresistible and while the spawn goes on, a veritable banquet commences.

          Now here’s the rub. If you throw a reasonable worm likeness into the briny while spawn occurs, your chances of snatching one of these slurping stripers is really quite good. The amazing thing is that the stripers you are stalking can rang from schoolie size (12 to 24 inches) to a decent weighted keeper of twenty-eight plus inches. It is certainly not uncommon to catch twenty to thirty bass during the evening hatch. In fact, between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM on the second night of this year’s hatch, I caught twenty-two fish, which included four bass that exceeded 28 inches in length.

          Last year's worm spawn in Lake Tashmoo lasted five nights. Worms will normally migrate to the surface during the evening’s "magic hour" and continue to spawn well into the darkness. As was expected, the best nights were the ones when the least amount of worms were available. On the third night of the hatch there were thousands of worms visible on the surface. This became easy pickings for the striped predators and hard fishing for the flyrodder. It was like playing the Las Vegas odds and the odds won. When the amount of worms subsided, the success of hooking fish increased dramatically. At the end of the fifth day, the spawn was spent and the fish had moved back out toward deep water. The worm hatch had ended as abruptly as it had started. For me, and perhaps the other flyfishing wormers who had joined me, it was the end of another fantastic fishery. I considered myself fortunate to have fished the Vineyard hatch once again.

          When you have an opportunity to fish a Martha’s Vineyard worm hatch remember that it will be a most memorable experience. Like those of us who have experienced it, you will be as hooked on the worm hatch as the fish you hook during it. The worm hatch is a very special part of the saltwater flyrodders calendar. Don’t miss it!



Productive Worm Patterns

Windram Worm Fly, Sayre Worm Blob, Jay Cronin's Worm, Bucktail Worm, Velvet Worm


Some Notes

Check out Chris Windram's website at www.saltwaterflies.com . Some of the pictures shown above are of Chris and several of the flies are his creations.

Check out Jeff Sayre's website at www.flyfishingthevineyard.com . Jeff is one of the Island's most accomplished and knowledgeable flyfishermen. He posts current information on what's happening on the Island. 

Check out Larry's Tackle Shop website at www.larrystackle.com for more Vineyard information.

And least we forget - remember www.capawock.com for your flyfishing adventure on the Vineyard worm!


         Go to Capawock Fishing Charters