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Angling Buzzes with Cicadas

Go Fish

By Steve Chaconas

Angling Buzzes with Cicadas

Showing up every 17 years, cicadas enter the region with sight and sound and are expected to appear up and down the East Coast between late April and early June, as the ground temperature reaches the mid 60s. They come out of the ground, mate and then die while their offspring go back underground and wait another 17 years before emerging to repeat the process. Anglers and fish will be waiting for cicadas with baited breath. Cicadas provide a meaty snack that creates a buzzing invitation along the surface, often buzzing in circles to allow fish of every species to zero in.

A few billion will take to the air and some will inadvertently end up in the water. This creates a topwater feeding frenzy. During Cicada season 17 years ago, anglers noticed that fish keyed on anything that lingered on the surface as the cicada conditioned fish looked to the skies when eating. Around 2 inches in length, cicadas are not hard to find. They are all over trees and on the ground, making them easy to collect for bait. If they can’t be seen, noisy males can be heard and then located. As if the noise wasn’t enough, these insects are hard to miss with their orange wings, buggy red eyes and distinctive noisy mating calls. They are totally harmless to humans, and a tasty meal to fish.

Cicadas may enhance fishing in clear-water scenarios where fish feed by sight, or in shallow water where they are close to the fish despite visibility. Fish will find them. Looking for birds diving on cicadas will reveal areas chummed with cicadas. These are the best places to fish as the buffet attracts fish. As with other topwater lures and baits, low light, calm and clear water are the best conditions. Early morning and just before dusk are the best times. If using artificial topwaters, matching the hatch with cicada like patterns, black bodies with orange bellies and gold wings, will produce. But lures that create a disturbance work best. This includes small buzzbaits, poppers and prop baits. Topwater fishing provides more coverage than bottom baits. In addition, buzzing cicadas don’t move very far, remaining a visible noisy target for a longer period of time, pulling fish from a distance or to get the bigger more reluctant fish to finally emerge to silence the loud intruder.

Using cicadas as a live bait is highly productive for bass, bluegill, catfish, trout and even carp. Hooking the cicada under the thorax shell from the back of the insect towards the head will allow the size 6 bait keeper hook to be less snaggy and let the cicada buzz on the water letting out an ultrasonic ring.  It’s like a dinner bell. Fish move from quite a distance to smash cicadas when trapped on the water’s surface. Avoid sinkers, floats or other terminal tackle. However a float will enable longer casts in clearer water. Put a float on your line about 2 feet above the hook. Spinning reels make casting much easier. A medium action 6’6” rod will enable hooksets with a reeling set. A double rig with one hook tied directly to the line and then about 3 feet away to the end of the line tie another. Sometimes this will produce double hook ups. As for line, a strong monofilament 6-10 pound test will work, or a 10 pound braided line with a monofilament leader in the 6-10 pound range about 6 feet long. Flourocarbon isn’t the best choice as it sinks and will pull cicadas below the surface, losing its buzzing action. When fishing current, allow cicadas to rest in slack water and slowly drift to the edge where fish will target them before they leave. Cast into the wind or current, allowing the bait to be gently blown towards you to present the bait to more areas, and more fish.

After waiting patiently for 17 years, cicadas and anglers are ready for some action. This could be the best 3 or 4 weeks of fishing of the season and possibly a lifetime. 

Potomac River Bassing in May

Water is reaching the mid 60s and fish are in shallow waters for the spawn. Fish are staying shallow on wood cover and submerged grasses.  The good news is that Potomac bass spawn in waves and this can last into mid-June. So, anglers can target pre spawn, spawn and post spawn bass in the same areas.

For the pre spawn bass, active lures like lipless crankbaits and shallow crankbaits are good choices to cover water. Use 10 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line. 

Another good lure is a suspending jerkbait. In clear water with a chop and cloudy skies, make long casts and uncover the magic cadence. Slight snaps and pauses will bring bass out of hiding to take the bait. Again, 10 pound test Edge will be best. With the smaller baits, use spinning gear for longer casts. 

Carolina rigs find all stages of bass. Use 50 pound Gamma Torque braid, a ¾ ounce weight, and a 12 pound test Edge leader. 

Once grass is found, follow up with soft plastics. Drop shots with 15 pound Torque braid and 10 pound test Edge leader and a 3/16 ounce Water Gremlin BullShot weight will find grass and remain to get fish in highly pressured grass beds. 

If water is a bit stained, try ¼ ounce spinnerbaits with gold Colorado/Indiana blades and a white skirt on 12 pound test Edge. Slowly retrieve and bump cover or snap out of grass.

Pitch Mizmo tubes with ¼ ounce Mud Puppy Custom Baits insert heads. Skipping under docks and near cover will also produce along with Neko and Ned rigs. Faster Quantum Smoke spinning reels make it easier to take up slack for hooksets with 15 pound Gamma Torque braid with 10 pound Edge leader.

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com. 

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