With mushroom mania waning, the big question of Hoosier outdoor types
revolves around the value of the 17-year locust as fish bait.
In some parts of the southern part of Indiana the three species of
locusts involved in Brood 10 already are singing their monotonous songs,
and Bob Waltz, state entomologist, says this somewhat unpopular natural
phenomenon soon will be apparent throughout the state.
Still, the real issue--at least for those of the hook-'n-bobber set--revolves
around the fish-eye view of this insect lure as bait.
Will fish eat cicadas? Of course, the answer to that question is: Of
In the early years of Monroe Reservoir--the year escapes me, but it
would have been in the very late '60s or the early 70s--many of the bass
in this 10,000-acre-plus reservoir went upstream in the spring into the
three forks of Salt Creek (North, Middle and Mud forks) the latter being
a fork of the Middle.
Mud Fork veers south from Brown County's Middle Fork into Jackson County
and laces the wooded hills together all the way to the town of Kuirtz and
a bit beyond.
Upper stretches of Mud Fork don't amount to much today, because it
(like many other mid-sized streams) is trying to tell us there are ground-water
problems in the offing. But in those days, Mud Fork--like the others--was
a free-flowing stream with water of high quality. The fish joined me in
I fished, hunted, enjoyed, and wrote about Mud Fork so much in those
days that some waggish readers accused me of owning it.
With my old canvas shoulder-strap bag loaded with small boxes of artificial
lures, terminal tackle and night crawlers or soft craws, I could fill my
old burlap bag (a k a the Bayou Bill Creel to those who made light of my
adventures) with largemouth bass, crappies, bluegills and rock bass. It
was heaven. I could slip into the water with old clothes and shoes and
forget the woes of the world.
It didn't matter what I used for bait. The fish loved it. The fish
loved it, that is, until the emergence of Brood something or other of the
17-year cicada. It didn't matter where I went, the cicadas were there,
falling into the water--a smorgasbord for fish.
I had been aware of their presence on several trips to Salt Creek,
but they did not seem to be a problem. Then one day I found the fishing
much slower. Fish just didn't seem to be biting.
It was something of a mystery to me until I stood on an old iron bridge
and watched as countless cicadas dropped from the canopy of trees into
the water. They didn't last long. Bass, bluegills and other fish sucked
them in on the surface. Although I did not back up my observations with
a study of fish stomachs, I presumed that fish were so well fed on cicadas
that they simply would not take other baits.
I didn't catch a lot of fish on cicadas that year because the emergence
was pretty much over before I realized they would take fish. Since that
time, I have experimented with annual locusts when I have been able to
catch them. The best way to catch cicadas is to pick them off the sides
of trees. Adults climb trees to deposit their eggs in small twigs and under
Although fish will take locusts--especially on the surface--I find
their value as bait limited because they are difficult to catch (unless
they come in swarms), and difficult to put (and keep) on a hook. A squeamish
person will not enjoy handling cicadas, harmless as they are.
My experience indicates the best way to fish locusts is dry (on the
surface). The best way to bait them is to place the insect head first in
the bend of a light wire hook with the shank of the hook running
along the belly of the insect. This will place the tail of the insect near
the eye of the hook. The insect can be held there with short strip of light
copper wire, which twists easily--like a "twistem." Plastic-covered
twistems will work but I find light copper wire is better because it is
If the wire is placed just behind the cicada's head, the wings will
be free to create a disturbance on the surface of the water--a self-propelled
Locusts emerge every summer in one form or another. In most years the
emergence of locusts comes during the "Dog Days" of summer. Their incessant
song announces their arrival.
How good are cicadas for bait?
For many years I have inspected the stomach contents of the fish I cleaned,
including many of the bluegills. Neither cicadas, nor any other insects,
have shown up in great numbers. Most conspicuous by their absence have
been dragonflies, even though wildlife artists revel in painting dragonflies
hovering over the water and a big bass preparing to nab them.
My unscientific studies have found more crayfish and small bait fish
than insects, or even worms. This makes sense because most insects and
worms are not in their element when in water.
Still, I use insects for bait any time I can get them--especially grasshoppers,
hellgrammites and other aquatic larva. Little toads can be deadly.