The Hatch may be Open.

“That’s a big mosquito!” a boy in the crowd said.

However, my pet for a brief moment was a harmless mayfly, attracted to the lights of my kids’ ballgame. At the river earlier that day, there also was a “hatch” (a periodic emergence of insects, often in large numbers) of another much smaller species.

This last week, my usual river smallmouth bass tactics were met with less than enthusiastic hits.  I attributed my lack of success to the low river level and the massive amounts of fry in the shallows. However, periodic hatches of mayflies and such, can affect the bite too.

One mayfly hatch on the Mississippi River during the 2012 Bassmaster Elite season greatly affected the smallmouth activity and frustrated the anglers. Bill Lowen was quoted as saying, “I would have given a hundred-dollar-bill for one mayfly (lure) today.” And Brent Chapman was so impressed by the feeding intensity that he was having a special fly rod made to accompany him during the 2013 season.

Fly fisherman especially pay close attention to hatches and thus “match” their fly selection accordingly for trout. They use terms like “duns,” “drakes,” “sulfurs,” “nymphs,” “spinners,” and “subimagos,” referring not only to different species, but also different life stages of these insects as they hatch and progress through the water column, providing a trout smorgasbord.

For bass anglers, this periodic massive insect activity can make fish very fussy.  If unable to find a close enough match to tempt the fish feeding on the insects, you may find success by focusing on the other fish attracted to the party. Sunfish, minnows, and chubs can feed on these insects at all stages of the water column but the  swirling and smacking of the surface in the evening will not go unnoticed by larger predators like catfish, bass, pike, and muskie.

A hatch may only last a few days or a few hours. When it is over, the fish should resume regular feeding patterns so I’m heading to the river again today to see what else I can learn besides a “subimago” is not an Italian hoagie.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.