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PAUL NELSON FISHING: Follow those insect hatches to the fish

Paul Nelson

The insect hatches have begun as the walleyes continue to spread out into the lakes. There is nothing limiting walleyes to how deep or shallow walleyes can go right now, as long as they can find enough food to eat.

Different size walleyes eat different things, but when there is something bountiful like a major insect hatch going on in the lakes, fish of all sizes will be there to take advantage of the situation.

Midges are usually the first major bug hatch of the season. Many people mistake midges for mosquitos, but midges don’t have stingers and they don’t suck blood, although they will fly into your eyes, ears and mouth if you let them.

Midges are the adult phase of bloodworms, which are a critical food source for sunfish, perch and crappies, especially during the winter. Many minnows and other species like tullibees, whitefish and suckers all eat their share of bloodworms, too.

The insect hatches generally proceed by size, with the smaller varieties hatching sooner than the larger bugs. Even the smaller subspecies of dragonflies hatch before the larger varieties, although there are multiple minor hatches going on all summer.

There are several different types of mayflies, from the brownish ones, to the redish ones, to the ones with a greenish tint, which are the largest variety and last ones to hatch.

Many anglers associate mayflies with trout, which can often be one of the major food sources for trout living in many of the trout streams across the country.

Trout forage for mayflies in their nymph stage, which takes up about 99 percent of the mayflies lives. Mayflies only spend a couple of days in their adult phase, where their only purpose is mating and laying their eggs. Adult mayflies don’t even have mouths, so they basically mate and die.

Most people living near water notice the major insect hatches when they happen. What they may not notice are the multiple minor hatches of insects that come out of the lakes all summer and into the fall.

When the insects aren’t hatching out of the lakes, the nymphs are on the bottom of the lakes, eating up the dead and decaying plant and animal matter.

Insects provide a critical year round food source for many different species of fish in lakes, rivers and streams and represent a critical source of food utilized by most species of fish in the lakes either directly or indirectly.

The insect hatches happen out of the portions of the lakes with a mud bottom. The mud bottom can be shallow or deep, but the mud is the most fertile part of the lakes for insects larvae to live.

It is almost like a garden or farmers field, with the most fertile areas growing the most insects because that is where their food is located. The insects start the food chain and the rest of the fish go where the insects are located.

Anglers can see the insects rising out of the mud on sonar before the insects emerge out of the lakes. Most of these areas will also have minnows, small fish and larger fish in the same areas.

The insect hatches help spread the fish out into the lakes at the time when the fish are more spread out into the lakes than any other time of the year.

The edges between the mud basin and harder bottomed areas on structure along with the inside and outside edges of the weeds and the transition areas between different bottom types are all areas that will hold fish early in the summer.

All of the larger lakes have good bites for walleyes right now. The jig and minnow bite is giving way to other presentations for walleyes like live bait rigs with larger minnows, leeches or night crawlers.

The walleye bite is usually better on days with overcast skies and wind on lakes with clear water. Lakes with stained water like Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods are usually best on days with less wind and bright skies.

Paul A. Nelson runs the Bemidji Area Lakes Guide Service. Guided trips for 2018 can be booked at