Fishing with Terrestrial Live Baits

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Accidents Happen. Bugs fall into the water. Small bugs may float, bouyed by surface tension. Big bugs can sink. All object violently to their unhappy introduction to the aquatic world. This action signals gamefish dinner’s served. As a result “terrestrials” work for fly fishermen who imitate crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, caterpillars, cicadas, wasps, bees or hornets. A number of other flying and crawling insects work too. Hummingbird and other big beetles, centipedes and a host of others deserve a try. One class, terrestrial insect larvae, long popular with ice fishermen, work so well, and come in so many flavors, we’ll deal with larvae separately.

The number of terrestrial insects presented to gamefish is much smaller than aquatic insects. In theory they should be less effective. In fact, they are not. Why? Terrestrials in the drink offer easy dinner because, like fish out of water, they are out of their element. Then too, since terrestrials are blow or drop into the water at rather odd intervals, they attract even when there is not a hatch. Terrestrials, at least those commonly used as bait, are fairly large too. The result, for anglers, is two very effective commercially available baits that we’ll cover in detail, grasshoppers and crickets, and some sample alternatives worth a look.

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Clearly naturals cost less and work better than fancy flies or plastic, scent-impregnated imitations. However, choices are limited in many parts of the country. Crickets seem most popular commercial insect baits. Grasshoppers are sometimes available, and the Catalpa worm is a usual brim bait in the south. Aside from that, “what you catch is what you get.” Take the time to catch your own baits, and enjoy a secret weapon that’s a best bet for species such as trout, bass and panfish.

Catching your own also offers enough insects if chumming is legal where you fish. Toss a cricket or caterpillar every fifteen to thirty seconds into a stream and you may convince a big, bottom-hugging fish like a brown trout or smallmouth that it’s time for dinner up top. Flip grasshoppers up into an offshore wind from a meadow bank of a lake and, as the hoppers blow out into deeper water, you’ll soon see them disappear into hungry fish that will almost always cruise up into casting range.

In most cases this means raising or collecting insects on your own, because, even today you can find less than one percent of the potential terrestrial insect baits in shops.