"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Many Insects Will Take Fish
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

Hoosiers--including many of those who fish--are going gaga over the emergence of brood 10 of the 17-year cicada. But unless they are slapping mosquitoes, black flies, no-see-ums, gnats or some others of the roughly one million insects known to man, they are oblivious to other insects.

It is such a shame because every species of the insect world (undesirable as many are) have some characteristics or physical attributes worth observing . . . enjoying. It is only a matter of being aware of their presence.

We of the angling set are more interested fish bait potential of this infestation of the cicada, but there are hundreds--even thousands of other insect species that affect fishing in one way or another.

A glut of cicadas could have an impact on fishing conditions as surely as grasshoppers, hellgrammites, crickets and other old favorites will take fish. But there are hundreds--perhaps even thousands--of other insects that are just as good for bait.

Take, for example, an interesting interlude I had no further back than the early morning of the day (Monday) this is being written.

I am up with the sun to take out the trash, when I see a huge swarm of very small, light-colored insects going crazy over the river (White River's West Fork in Hamilton County). I have witnessed this natural phenomenon many times before, but never with such profusion.

So the trash waits while this miniature mayfly species does its thing. I do not doubt that this tiny insect (perhaps a quarter of an inch long with clear, white wings and a cream colored-body scarcely one-sixteenth of an inch thick) would make a great bluegill bait. But how would I get them on a hook . . . even if I could capture and hold them.

However, there are times when the presence of insects, in great numbers or singularly, can be very good fish bait.

A case in which insects saved a fishing trip comes to mind. I am fishing for white bass (silvers) with Bob Winters, a white bass fishing expert, at the US 24 bridge over the upper end of Lake Freeman at Monticello.

It is a beautiful May evening and Bob has tied his boat to steel rods under the bridge. The silvers are moving upstream to spawn and Bob has rigged underwater lights to bring them to our small minnows suspended below bobbers.

The fishing has been great on previous evenings, and Bob finds it difficult to understand why we are not having any action until he notices blackbirds and grackles sitting on utility wires that cross the lake and feeding on airborne mayflies like the flycatchers that they aren't.

We are both wondering if the mayflies--they are all over the boat and even on our clothing--might be good bait. One of us punches the soft body of a big mayfly on a hook and makes it available to the old sows that must be all around us.

Whammo! The answer to that question came quickly and we plucked mayflies for bait as fast as they would sit down within our reach.

By the time the mayfly hatch subsided a short time after dark we had all of the fish we wanted. 

On another occasion on a small watershed lake in southern Indiana the bluegills are not just exactly going crazy over the small pieces of night crawler or small spinner-baits I am offering. 

I notice this beautiful hairless "woolyworm" crawling up my trouser leg and wonder if it would bring some action. I punch a small wire hook through its tough aqua-blue skin and flip it into the water. 

The worm sinks only a foot or two before I am fighting a husky bluegill. A number of other 'gills and bass take it before it is lost.

On another occasion in Upstate New York's famed Adirondack Mountains, my wife has four-wheeled me far into a mountainous region to fish a small stream that hosts a little (seven to 10-inch) native brook trout.

It is shortly after noon and my wife assures me she will be back to pick me up a short time before dark.

I exit the jeep with my little flyrod and other paraphernalia. About the time the Jeep disappears over a ridge, I realize that I forgot to get the bottle of insect repellent from the back seat. It is a stark discovery . . . multiplied many times by the horde of deer flies, black flies and you name it that are descending upon me.

"Well, I am here," I tell myself and add that I might just as well try to enjoy the afternoon as I stand the old logging road and marvel at the rugged beauty of the stream. "Anyhow," I rationalized, "if it is windy the roguish critters might be bearable."

But it wasn't windy. I did more slapping at bugs than fishing. As the sun started sinking beyond ridges to the west, I approached a stretch of shallow, fast water that gurgled into a large millpond of deep water with all kinds of natural cover.

Standing in the fast water, I cast the small gray fly (a nymph) to the surface just beyond where the fast water smoothed out into slicks. There was no action, and to make matter worse the deer flies were turning me into a smorgasbord.

But I knew this was my best shot at taking trout for breakfast back to the camp, so I brushed and picked deer flies off my arms and neck (even out of my hair) and pinched them into submission before dropping them into the fast water.

My casts of the usually deadly nymph remained fruitless, but in a short time I noticed fish boiling to the surface where the fast water smoothed out into slicks.

"Son-of-a-gun," I breathed to myself. "Could they be hitting dead deer flies?"

I scrape a deer fly off my neck and punch the hook of the nymph into its soft body with measure of retribution. Then I cast the deerfly/nymph to one of the slicks.

Whammo! A beautiful eight-inch brookie.

I can't pick off deer flies fast enough for the trout in that pool.

As darkness closes in, I wade slowly from the fast water and head for the old logging road . . . with a limit of trout wrapped up in my damp gunnysack creel.

mayfly.JPG (19594 bytes) The mayfly is just one of many insects that will take fish.
A swarm of millions of tiny mayflies blot out trees on the far side of the river. swarm.JPG (36116 bytes)

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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