Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Match The Hatch: It's Hopper Time

I woke up this morning with the intention of heading into the garden to pick some weeds and harvest a few veggies. But, once I got out back, I  realized it was hopper time. You know that time of the year when grasshoppers seem to be everywhere?  Hopper time is a gardeners worst nightmare and a fisherman's dream. For those who garden, it's the time when a plague of grasshoppers decide your plants are just as tasty as you hope they'll be. I have a love/hate relationship with this annual event.  I hate seeing the damage they do to my vegetables,but I love that by using a simple butterfly net and a cricket cage, I'm ready for a few weeks of great pan fish fishing.

Before we talk tips, let's understand how the hatch actually works.  Grasshoppers tend to hatch from the ground in late spring and early summer. So the season  usually gets good around the beginning of July and last through late September or longer depending on the temperatures. Born wingless nymphs, the hoppers feed on tender leaves and vegetation until they're ready to molt, which they'll do a few times as they grow to adult size. As an adult, they grow wings. This is when they are big enough to harvest for bait.

There are  two ways to catch grasshoppers.The first is to simply sneak up, grab them, and throw them into a bottle or bucket. But, I use a butterfly net. I brush the butterfly net across the tops of the grass and high standing garden plants. The hoppers will jump into the net in an attempt to escape. I move them promptly into a cricket cage for transport to the lake.

I use grasshoppers as pan fish bait. But, they are a versatile bait. Hoppers attract everything. I've caught bullhead catfish while fishing hoppers on the bottom as well as  bluegill, carp, trout, and large mouth bass while fishing hoppers on the surface.  I think this is because grasshoppers aren't particularly graceful when they land in the water and fish won't turn down such an easy meal.

Tips for fishing with grasshoppers:  
1. There are two simple ways of rigging grasshoppers. A. Hook the hopper just beneath the collar when fishing surface presentations.  B. When using subsurface presentations thread the hopper from head to tail.

2. Use light wire aberdeen hooks size #4 or #6 for rigging grasshoppers as the thinner hooks are easier to rig the hoppers with and the thinner wire doesn't damage hoppers as bad as thick wire hooks, thus keeping them alive longer.

3. Use light monofilament line when hopper fishing. This is true for live hoppers or imitations like Rebel's Crickhopper.  The monofilament floats which aids in keeping your hopper on the surface and 2 and 4lb test lines aid you in casting such light baits.

4. Cast your hoppers, imitation or real, close to shore where high weeds are abundant.  This is key as fish are used to seeing random hoppers landing in the water near high weeds.

5. Whether you're using hard hopper imitations like crickhoppers or fly fishing with foam or deer hair flies, present the baits with soft twitches or pops.With lures like the crickhopper popper, you'll be tempted to chug away at it like you would a minnow shaped bass popper to get the fish's attention.  But, if you've ever see a grasshopper fall in the water, it doesn't make huge splashes as it's trying to get out of the water so keep your popping short and literally popping.

Thanks for reading!

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