When we’re out fishing, we’re influenced by many things – the weather, water conditions, other fishermen, etc, but one of the things we seem to overlook quite often are bugs. Sure, when the flies are biting, and the mosquitoes are buzzin’ around they’re hard to ignore…
but those are bugs that merely try to irritate us and inconvenience us. The bugs, or insects that I’m referring to are the ones that should influence our approach to fishing during specific times of the year.
An insect that signals a feeding frenzy to the fish is the mayfly – every year, when conditions are right, usually sometime during May, there’s a major mayfly hatch which becomes a major source of food for bluegills, minnows and frogs, which in turn, become a major source of food for the predator fish – particularly bass. You can look for the mayfly hatch to occur sometime after the air temperature reaches eighty degrees. I’ve found that my greatest success has come fishing during the early evening hours when there’s a heavy hatch.
A tree that grows all over the Midwest is the Catalpa tree, the tree is common to rivers, wet areas and older neighborhoods. It is commonly identifiable by its extremely large leaves or the elongated bean-like pods it produces. There’s a worm associated with this tree, the catalpa worm, I’ve found that catalpa trees that overhang channels and backwater areas are a great location to find bass who are drawn to the smaller fish who feed on the worms. Old timers have been known to guard the whereabouts of prime catalpa trees for years, not even telling their closest friends of their location.
Towards the end of Summer there’s grasshoppers and crickets everywhere. When they start their courtship, it’s time to think about where the fish will be in relation to these tasty morsels…you’ll find grasshoppers along the edge of the water on tall grass stalks, and often grasshoppers or crickets misjudge their next landing site and end up in the water, there’s something very tantalizing about their helplessness to bass. Many times I’ve watched as other fishermen, with tons of high-priced tackle at their fingertips are out-fished by kids using grasshoppers for bait. Perhaps we’d be wise to learn from these innocent children.
One other insect we credit with being a favorite is the dobson fly…sure, you’ve heard of them, they’re better known a hellgrammites. Smallmouth fishermen and trout fishermen have known about them for years. Hellgrammites are usually found under rocks in streams. The hellgrammite is not a small insect, it’s usually approximately three inches long and sports some nasty pincers -when looking for hellgrammites take care…a big hellgrammite that bites you can easily draw blood. A stream that holds hellgrammites is a good stream to slowly fish jigs on – hellgrammites are not good swimmers, but are a favorite of river smallmouth.
As the temperature rises we listen to the symphony at night of cicadas as we watch the fireflies dance in the moonlight. Cicadas have been a guarded secret for years, but when the cicadas are courting it’s time to pull out our arsenal of top water baits! Many hardbaits have immitated the cicada, more in the past two years than ever before.
Granted, this is just a general overview of some of the insects that should influence the way we fish at various times of the year. There may be a reason that’s more obvious now as to why bass are quite often found in fairly shallow water near shorelines. Due to the fact that all these insects provide a source of food for other fishes, frogs, snakes, etc. and due to the fact that bass love to eat other fishes, frogs and snakes we would be wise to take a tip from nature and pay attention to the different times of the year when certain insects are present.
To all things there is a season…even a season for insects!
Mark Toth, The Ditch Fishing Chronicles