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Mayfly Hatch Fishing - Tactics For Success

Sometimes you don't clue in and make the changes when you should. It's not until after the trip when you look back and reflect that you realize what was going on and what you should have done; although this is only possible since you collected so much information on where the fish weren't! The mayfly hatch is on in Georgian Bay and on our latest trip we took the time making sure the fish were not in the weedlines so you don't have to. Regardless of your target species the mayfly/shadfly hatch can have a huge impact on fishing and leave you wondering what is going on. To make the most of your next trip on the water during the mayfly hatch we've compiled all the information you need to know and how to adjust. Check it out!

Mayfly Life Cycle

A quick over simplification of the mayfly life cycle is that they hatch at the bottom of the lake in mud, make their way to surface, emerging, shedding their skeleton, and taking flight. The larval stages while in the water column are not very mobile and as such are easy meals for both baitfish and larger predators like bass, walleye, pike, and musky. Once airborn the mayfly cluster together above the waters surface to mate, drop eggs into the water, and then die a short time later.

What Triggers A Mayfly Hatch

There are a number of factors which can contribute to the timing and size of mayfly hatch. The greatest factor is water temperature. The water in areas with mud basins must be in the 65-70 F range but needs to be 68 at depth! This means that the mayfly hatch is also a sign that cool water species (walleye, pike, trout) will have already moved to locations with access to deep water despite what the surface temperature says. Shallow basins (15-25 ft) will tend to be similar temp the whole way down but there are multiple factors impacting this

Other factors to look for when considering if a hatch has occurred or when one will occur are consistent warm temperatures in forecast with warm nights (this is key). Calm, humid, windless days have been known to promote the hatch but these typically go hand in hand with the previously mentioned factor.

Identifying The Mayfly Hatch Is On

Knowing what triggers a mayfly hatch isn't much use if you don't know how to tell when the hatch has actually started. Fortunately there are a number of visual indicators that anglers can rely on. The most obvious, if you are already in the middle of a hatch, is that the surface of the water will be covered in bug skeletons and dead mayfly! This is especially true early in the morning. Just before dusk and at night the mayfly will be sure to catch your attention if the hatch has started.

If the hatch is just beginning anglers will need to rely on their sonar to key in on the event. While driving over deeper water anglers will notice huge returns that cover a large portion of water column and will go for a dozen to a couple hundred feet in length. These are the bug hatches making way to surface! Typically the big hatch is a weak return compared to baitfish and the sonar needs to be on a fairly high setting to detect it. The difference between baitfish and bug hatch returns on the sonar is that the return for bug hatches looks like a giant uniform blob of the same strength return where as baitfish will have more variations in return strength, be more of a circular shape, and only take up a few feet of the water column.

Fishing During Mayfly Hatch: Important Considerations

While fishing during the mayfly hatch there are a number of important factors to consider while developing a strategy. Depending on the layout of the water body being fished, size of the mud flats, and weather the degree to which the hatch disrupts normal fishing will vary. The important factors to consider:

  • There is an overabundance of small food available

  • Bug hatches are an easy, low energy expenditure feast (bugs don't move well)

  • Low end of food chain moves to feed and so do predators

  • Bass, Walleye, Pike, & Musky will all feed on the bug hatches (you can see them in their mouth once you catch them)

  • Consistent wind can concentrate along shorelines

  • Singular big hatches in short periods on sunny days in morning - short intense bite window

  • Smaller hatches over long periods during overcast days - longer bite windows

How To Fish During Mayfly Hatch

Remember that bug hatches occur all across the mud basins. There is way more area in open water for them to hatch than along shorelines! With the above in mind the baitfish and predators are likely to be roaming open water overtop of the mud flats feeding on these bug hatches.

What does this mean for anglers?

Trolling is going to be the name of the game. There is too much potential water that fish can be using at this time of year. Anglers will need to cover water to find where the big concentrations of bug hatches are and where the fish have decided to feed. Keeping baits high in the water column is another good way to ensure bites are obtained as almost all fish feed up and they can be using any depth. By looking at the weather forecast and wind direction for the days leading up to a trip it may be possible to determine which half of a basin may be holding larger concentration of bug hatches but a lot will come down to time on the water with electronics!

Last but not least don't overlook the after dark and early morning bite! At times these can be the only periods where fish feed before shutting down until the next day.


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How To Fish During Mayfly Hatch, mayfly hatch fishing tips, northern pike, musky, bass, walleye


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