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You know what bugs me???

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Entomology is not a dirty word and it should excite you not put you to sleep.For those who don’t use it often, ‘entomology’ creates a big impression... Give it a try at your next house party.At the heart of it, it’s just the study of bugs; fortunately for most of us, the study does not have to be very intense… Wipe your brow and say “phew”.Truth is having a working knowledge of aquatic born Larvae and Nymphs is essential to produce better quality fish. Understanding how your prey feeds is a big leap forward for most fishermen.Although all of these aquatic insects are not readily available for fish in the wintertime they are still seen below the surface of the ice as a quality food source. Most are available at some point though the ice season in many of the lakes, rivers and back cuts we fish.


First let’s talk classification.

Larvae: Many classes of aquatic insects, such as caddisflies, midges, craneflies, dobsonflies, alderflies, and many more, are known as "larvae" rather than "nymphs" in their juvenile stages. They have mostly soft bodies rather than hard exoskeletons.

Nymphs: The juvenile, underwater stages of mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, water boatmen and damselflies and other aquatic insects whose juvenile stages are covered by hard exoskeletons.


Aquatic Larvae:

Midges: Midges are from the family Chironomidae, sometimes called “true flies” because like common houseflies they have two wings shorter than the body, and they don’t have tails. As the name implies, most midges are small, 3/4 inch or smaller. The midge life cycle has four distinct phases: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Adult midges lay their eggs over the water, and the larvae emerge and thrive in many water types. These Larvae especially thrive in slow water with a silty, muddy bottom covered with debris and aquatic vegetation. Fully developed midge larvae are small and can range from 3/4 inch down to 1/8 inch or smaller. Bloodworms the largest species are mostly found in lakes and other backwaters. They come in a variety of colors, but cream, brown, black, olive, and red are the most common.

Dobsonflies: Dobsonflies and their predatory larvae, Hellgrammites, are among the largest in our waterways. The family of dobsonflies is small, containing only two species. The larvae of both of are prominent in freshwater environments. They undergo complete metamorphosis, with the larvae being aquatic and the adults and pupae terrestrial in all habitats. The larvae of all species are elongate, wormlike, and are flatish (not a word…I made that up). The body is soft and fleshy with several protruding gills along the abdomen. The most notable feature however is the head which has thick, hard skin and a pair of prominent biting chewing mouthparts. The larvae are commonly called “hellgrammites”. Larvae of most species live in silty pool areas of where they spend most of their lives as burrowers. They are active predators, taking whatever prey they can catch and consume, and are among the most important predators in lakes and streams.

Caddisfly: Most anglers consider caddisflies to be a very important food source, and having an imitation in your pocket is necessary.They are an intermittent food source during the times when it seems like nothing else is working. Their larvae are among the most common insect inhabitants of freshwater habitats, particularly in streams and weeds. The larvae can be found throughout a diversity of habitats. However, most are found in back cuts adjacent to flowing water.

Aquatic Moth Larvae: In North America, there are 75 families of aquatic moths. Most aquatic moths are herbivores. Some species eat plant foliage, while others eat (and burrow into) into stems or roots of plants. Their larvae feed on algae and diatoms found on rock surfaces. Aquatic moth larvae can be found in still, slow, or rapidly flowing water-bodies. They tend to live along the river substrate on rocks or among vegetation. Aquatic moths undergo “complete metamorphosis”, which involves passing through four complete life stages. These are the egg, the larvae, the pupa, and the adult stages.Larvae living in different habitats have different ways of breathing. Those that live in slow flowing water may not have breathing gills, while those that live in fast flowing waters require gills in order to breathe.


Aquatic Nymphs:

Mayflies: Mayflies are the most important insects for anglers to understand, because they are common in our waters. Their behavior varies so widely between families and sometimes even species that it's useful to know and imitate the habits of each. The particular attraction to this awesome creature is the way it swims. It undulates its entire body to move in the water and this drives most fish crazy.

Stoneflies: Though less prolific than mayflies and caddisflies, stoneflies make up for in size what they lack in numbers. These large nymphs are welcome food year-round. The larvae of plecopterans, or stoneflies, are one of the most common residents of stony, fast-moving, lotic environments; most commonly cool, small streams and on rocky points. They are therefore highly flattened and have long, filamentous, inarticulate gills.

Damselflies: Damselflies mirror the closely related dragonflies. Their nymphs differ in the way they look, move, and respirate, but they share the same alpha predator status in the world of aquatic insects. Damselflies are at times important food items to fish in both their larva and adult stages. They are most often found in ponds, lakes, or slow-moving streams.

Scuds: Scuds are crustaceans, much like crawfish but smaller. Scuds are generally about the size of some mayfly and caddis larva, most often about one-eighth to three-eighths of an inch in length. Both organisms are found in rivers and still water, but appear in back waters and in bowl lakes quite often. Scud, sometimes called freshwater shrimp, are a primary food source for many panfish. They grow quickly and can survive in a variety of habitats, but they are most prolific in and around weeds. Unlike most aquatic insects, they never "hatch" into a dry form.

Water boatmen: Are the "true bugs," along with water scorpions, giant water bugs, and backswimmers. They are present in many streams but are more important as a food source in lakes and spring ponds. The nymphs and adults look similar. The adults cannot breathe water, but carry small air bubbles with them for respiration. Water Beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis, but adults and larvae nymphs both exist in the same habitat. Adults resemble other beetles. The larvae are elongated with a hard head, a large, filamentous gill protruding from the end of the abdomen, and a fleshy body.


Phewww we made it!

So with all of these present in our waters it is very understandable why the bite and hot bait, changes from one part of a lake to another. As we all know, the bite changes during different times of the ice season and it may have been caused by a new hatch or lively food source showing up below us. One thing is for sure though…if you have more “bug” options in your pocket you will out produce the others that don’t. One reason I put an imitation by the picture of the real one is to show that if you have not yet bought into the plastics revolution, being able to match the food source that is just below the ice may be just the thing you need….Give plastics a shake… or a jig… or a roll… or a swim.

Good Luck and I’ll see you out there.

Scott

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