Pratt families find nightcrawlers at Lemon Park after a rain

Billie Blair
Pratt Tribune
Kambree Strong uses a flashlight to locate nightcrawlers recently at Pratt's Lemon Park.
Kacin Strong holds up a nightcrawler he found at Lemon Park last week, after a significant rainfall brought the large worms up to ground-surface.

Two mothers recently found midnight family fun at Lemon Park, resurrecting an age-old adventure of gathering nightcrawlers after a generous rain in Pratt. Last week Monday, Stacie Strong and Stephanie Shanline-Thompson both found opportunity to make special memories with their children after a significant rainstorm went through the area Sunday night.

“A worm hunt is free and fun entertainment. If it’s a worm hunt in the middle of the night, the kids go for it,” Strong said. "Even though it was our 18th wedding anniversary, well, in our house the husband falls asleep on the couch and the wife takes the kids out worm hunting all hours of the night!”

Though this is not something Strong did as a child, but she said that about 10 years ago her father, Mark Ricke from Medicine Lodge, heard that Lemon Park was full of worms after a good rain. The story was passed down to the next generation and Strong said she started hunting the large worms, also called nightcrawlers, when her oldest son, Kollyn, was 5 years old. Kollyn, now 14, and his brother, Caleb, 12, seem to have out grown this late night adventure with mom, but last week, Strong and her youngest children, Kamree, 9, and Kacin, 5, went to Lemon Park and struck gold.

"The ground looked like it was moving under your feet because they sense you coming," Strong said. "There were so many and the kids loved it."

She and her children were able to catch 50 or more worms in a 20-to 30-minute time period.

There are two main requirements for a successful worm hunt, according to Strong.

“The ground needs to be pretty wet and it has to be pretty late at night, like 11:30 or midnight the night after a good rain,” she said. “The best hunting ground is north of the main gazebo by the play area.”

Strong said there are other places in the park unknown to her where one can find nightcrawlers. Her advice to other worm hunters would be to walk slowly and look around.

Strong said the worms they collect into a bucket to use for fishing.

"Sometimes we just let them go after having our fun with them,” she said.

They are fed worm food to help keep them alive in the bucket. Strong said she has put them in her garden, as well, having been told they are good for the soil.

Shanline-Thompson said she went worm hunting in Lemon Park as a child with her four brothers, (John, Chris, Jeff, and Ricky), and their father, Paul Shanline. They would shine a flashlight on the ground in the dark to help draw the earthworms out.

“We had to be quick to grab the nightcrawlers or they would get away,” she said.

Now she lets her son, Jace (8) and daughter, Dani (5), stay up until eleven after a hardy rain to take them out to see the worms in Lemon Park.

Shanline-Thompson said they are a big fishing family. The nightcrawlers go into the family’s worm farm, a big area of dirt in the yard that helps keep the earthworms available for fishing trips.

According to NatureNorth.com, nightcrawlers are also known as earthworms. They get their name because they crawl around on top of the ground at night. They are not native to North America, having been introduced to the continent with the coming of European settlers. These earthworms normally burrow deep into the soil to keep their skin moist, except when they come to the surface after a strong rain.