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Outdoors

Frye: Cicadas provide an opportunity not to be missed

Bob Frye
| Saturday, June 4, 2016, 7:57 p.m.
A Brood V cicada climbs a tree Friday, May 13, 2016, in a residential area of Wheeling, W.Va. They last appeared in 1999, and they're on their way back to complete a 17-year life cycle in much of West Virginia, Ohio and sections of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
A Brood V cicada climbs a tree Friday, May 13, 2016, in a residential area of Wheeling, W.Va. They last appeared in 1999, and they're on their way back to complete a 17-year life cycle in much of West Virginia, Ohio and sections of Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Have you seen them yet? Or at least heard them?

They're here, if maybe a bit later than expected.

But hey, what's a few weeks after 17 years?

Cicadas — specifically, Brood V cicadas, which emerge from underground burrows only once every 17 years — are out in full force in spots. Sparked by warming temperatures and rain, they've popped out for the first time since 1999.

There was some thought they might show up as early as April. That didn't happen, thanks to a cold spring.

But they're here now. They're expected to be most visible across a handful of southwestern Pennsylvania counties, including Fayette, Greene, Somerset, Westmoreland, Washington and possibly Allegheny.

If you haven't seen one yet, they're pretty big insects, about an inch and a half long. They have black bodies, red eyes and translucent wings.

They can spread across the landscape in massive quantities, perhaps hundreds of thousands per acre.

In such situations, they're noisy. The males “sing,” making a buzzing noise that's sort of like an electric razor — if you filled the trees with hundreds of thousands of razors at a time.

They won't be here long. They'll mate, lay eggs and die by mid-July.

Right now, though, it's time for gorging.

Fish — especially trout and smallmouth bass, but almost assuredly many other species, from bluegills to catfish, too — will be feasting on the insects over the next few weeks.

Clumsy, clunky fliers, cicadas invariably fall into the water at times — they're all along the Yough right now — where fish take them. Savvy anglers will take advantage of that before the insects are gone.

They can be fished as live bait. Try hooking them through the thorax — the part of the body between the head and the abdomen — and casting them out alone or on a small bobber. Before expiring they often will buzz on the water's surface, drawing fish in.

If you prefer to use artificials, topwater lures can be a good choice for bass during the cicada boom. Poppers especially work well because, as you chug them along, they imitate a cicada struggling on the surface.

Insect-shaped crankbaits designed to run on or just below the water's surface — think something that looks like a bumble bee — are effective, too

There's no shortage of cicada patterns for fly anglers, either. Some are made with foam, others with deer hair. The goal of all is to “splat” when they fall and then float high in the water. Be sure any you choose have big wings, too.

Such flies aren't just for trout, or even river smallies. Carp — increasingly, a target of fly fishermen in recent years — will just hammer them at times, too, and if you hook one, they can put up a strong, bulldog-like fight.

Really, these bugs present an opportunity not to be missed.

They show up only once nearly every two decades. How many times in a lifetime can an angler expect to get to fish this “hatch?”

Don't miss this chance. If nothing else, it's another excuse to get out on the water, and that's never a bad thing.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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