The larva of the midge, bloodworms are small bright red, segmented larva with dark green head.
There are many different species, but those associated with angling live in the silty bottom of most waterbodies. They are probably the most prolific source of natural food for bottom feeding fish such as gudgeon, bream, carp and tench. Bloodworm thrives in low oxygen conditions.
The larvae of a much smaller species of midge, jokers are primarily used as loose feed in combination with bloodworm as hook baits. It may surprise some readers to learn that two or three jokers or even a single specimen may also be used as a hook bait. You do need good eyesight to put a single joker on a size 24 or 26 fine wire hook.
Jokers are found in polluted streams such as those below sewage outfalls where oxygen levels are depleted. In times gone by, many rivers in urban areas were full of joker, the River Douglas in the Wigan area being a prime example. It was here that a young Billy Makin first saw the men of Wigan plying their trade as joker collectors. In a recent article, Billy made the interesting and valid point that UK waters containing joker in significant numbers were way too polluted to have ever contained fish life.
Despite bloodworm being the most natural of all fishing baits, it has attracted much controversy especially in times gone by, but still the spirited debate about the pros and cons of its use rages on. Bloodworm and joker are much more commonly used in mainland Europe. UK anglers wishing to represent their nations at international level will certainly need to hone both their bloodworm and joker fishing skills.
Bloodworm and joker are considered extremely effective especially during the winter months when their small size and active movement makes them extremely attractive to fish such as roach, bream, perch, gudgeon and ruffe and makes them some match anglers favourite bait. Due to their small size, very small fine wire hooks (size 22 or smaller) and fine lines are a must for optimal bait presentation.
You can collect both bloodworm and joker by hand using a home-made scraper, which is dragged through the top few inches of the silt.
If you are contemplating this, we advise taking extreme care and think about water safety. Simon Mottram nearly lost his life in pursuit of bloodworm on one occasion being saved only by the prompt actions of Chris Harvey and eventually the local fire brigade.
You must also ensure you have the permission of the owner of the waterbody before getting started. Due to time and effort involved in finding and then collecting ones’ own supply, bloodworm and joker are commonly ordered through specialist importers such as @livebloodwormandjoker and tackle shops during the winter period.
Like bloodworm, jokers could be collected yourself with the same caution applicable. To the best of our knowledge there are relatively few locations in the UK where joker could be can be found in large quantities today. The whereabouts of any remaining joker hotspots will be closely guarded secrets but it may still be worth seeking out employees of sewage treatment companies. Most joker sold in the UK is imported from mainland Europe, mostly from Eastern Europe, principally Poland and Russia. In the past large quantities of joker entered the UK from Belgium. Joker is available to order from importers and some tackle shops mainly during the winter period and attracts a premium price due to the effort involved in obtaining them.
Francis Francis writing of northern angling practices in 1867 cites ‘we northern anglers generally term our groundbaits as ‘feeds’ this we speak of bloodworm feed, yellow feed (squatts) and bread feed. In my early days, the most successful ground bait was bloodworm feed. In almost all northern matches today the use of bloodworm is barred but wherever they are allowed and an expert bloodworm fisher is a competitor, you may confidently expect to see his name in the prize list’.
There have been many great bloodworm anglers such as former world champions Kevin Ashurst and Ian Heaps and todays England team will to a man be superb exponents of the art of fishing with bloodworm and joker. Nantwich’s Ian Moulton and Cannock’s Simon Nickless are two other superb exponents not forgetting Dave Berrow and Stuart Conroy.
In the 1960s and 1970s four anglers from Wigan, a traditional heartland of bloodworm fishing, took the match scene by storm. These four angler, Frank Franklin, Bert Naylor, Roy Meredith and Graham Joynt were collectively known as the Firm. Graham applied for the England team managers job back in 1984 and unlike Ray Mumford, was interviewed by a panel led by Harry Lodge. The job was eventually awarded to Dick Clegg. In the 1992 Division Four national held on the Witham, the NFA banned bloodworm but not joker. The Milo Mohmar team stormed to victory 114 points feeding joker and using it on the hook.
Last date edited: 29 March 2018