Are Cicadas Good for Fishing? A Guide to Fishing with Cicadas

One of the world’s largest groups of cicadas, also referred to as the Brood X cicadas, emerges once every 17 years. These large insects are known to be a staple in the diets of several fish species.

So, Are Cicadas good for fishing? Cicadas are good for fishing. They’re attractive to the fish because of their large size, colorful appearance, distinctive sound, and wing action. They’re also easy for anglers to collect to use as bait as they can be found in large numbers in the trees or on the ground.

Keep reading to learn more about the cicada season and how to catch cicadas to use as bait

What You Need to Know About Cicadas

Brood x cicada to show why are cicadas good for fishing

Cicadas, also known as Brood X cicadas, are flying insects that hatch every year and they can be found in almost every state in America.

They’re typically 1 to 2 inches in length. They have black bodies, bright wings with orange veins, big red eyes, and six legs.

Cicadas do not only emerge from certain types of rivers and streams like other insects that fish tend to feed on. Instead, they would provide excellent feeding opportunities on any body of water they emerge in.

What is Cicada Season?

The cicada season refers to the time period where cicadas emerge from the ground to mate. This season usually lasts three or four months and the exact timing of their emergence mainly depends on the weather.

They tend to emerge from the ground during late spring and early summer when the temperature is at 64 degrees or so.

Cicadas spend the majority of their life underground they emerge out of the ground once every 17 years to mate.  After they die, their offspring will go back underground and wait another 17 years before emerging again to repeat the process.

When cicadas emerge from the ground, they will climb into trees, molt, then produce distinctive noises to attract potential mates. They might also fly from one tree to another tree, but they don’t fly very well.

As the season progresses and the temperature gets colder, the cicadas will finish mating and become more lethargic. Some of them might die from the cold or from old age and they will drop from the tree right into the water.

Where Will the Cicadas Emerge in 2021?

The Brood X cicadas are due to emerge around late spring of 2021 in the following states: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington DC.

How to Catch Cicadas?

Cicadas are easy to catch as they emerge in large numbers, however, you need to be quick to catch or you’ll miss your chance and might need to wait another 17 years.

You can use wide-mouthed jars to catch cicadas. Take 2 or 3 jars to the area where’s there’s a large number of cicadas and place some sticks for the cicadas to perch. All you need to do is place the jars on the ground and wait for the cicadas to fly in before you cover the jars. Make sure to poke holes into the lid of the jar to allow in more air for the cicadas to breathe.

You can also use plastic trays that come with multiple compartments instead of jars. These trays might be more ideal for catching cicadas as they will not be able to molt inside them

Can You Use Cicadas as Bait?

You can use cicadas as bait. They’re a favorite meal of many fish species as they’re large in size and rich in proteins. Some lures are designed to imitate the sound, movement. and wing action of cicadas to attract more fish.

They’re available in abundance during their emergence seasons which makes them easy to obtain at that time. They can also be easily rigged on hook and will remain hooked even when fishing in strong currents.

Speaking of interesting baits, did you know you can use hot dogs and frogs as bait? Check out my guide to fishing with hot dogs here, and how you can fish trout with frogs here.

Can You Fish Using Dead Cicadas?

It’s not recommended to fish using dead cicadas as bait. That’s because fish are generally not attracted to dead bait as it won’t produce the same movement or wing action so it won’t effectively grab the attention of the fish or tempt them to bite.

If the cicadas are freshly dead and their bodies are still in a good condition, then you might still be able to use them as bait, especially in streams with fast current where they can be rigged to move more naturally by the fish.

However, if the cicadas are molted or dried out from heat exposure then you won’t be able to use them as bait because they would have an extremely off-putting smell that would drive the fish away. They would also be very brittle and might disintegrate if you try to rig them on your hook.

So, if you have no choice but to fish with dead bait, make sure to choose the healthiest-looking cicada you can find.

Which Fish Can You Catch with Cicadas?

There are many fish species you can attract and catch when using cicadas as live bait.

These species include bass, bluegill, catfish, stripers, trout, carp, and sometimes even muskies.

How to Keep Cicadas Alive for Fishing?

Cicadas are generally for use to keep alive.

You need to make sure that the container in which they are stored is not airtight to allow them to breathe properly and make sure they’re stored away from extremely hot temperatures.

Keep an eye on the captured cicadas you’re storing to make sure they’re not molting as this will damage their fragile wings. If they’re turned on their back or side, you need to put them back on their legs to prevent them from molting

You also need to keep your cicada separated from each other to prevent them from latching onto each other and molting.  You can use a plastic tray with separated compartments to store them.

What Is the Best Gear to Use When Fishing with Cicada?

It’s recommended to use a 6’6” fishing rod with medium power and medium action. For the reel, it’s recommended to use a spinning reel to make casting easier. You can check the best budget spinning reels here.

For the fishing line, it’s recommended to use a monofilament line with a 6-10-pound line test or a braided line with a 10-pound line test attached to a monofilament leader that’s 6 feet long. You can check out my guide to the best monofilament lines here.

It’s best to avoid using fluorocarbon lines, as they’re heavy in weight and will sink in the water pulling the cicadas below the surface which will make them lose their action.

How to Rig Cicadas for Fishing?

When fishing with cicadas it’s often best to right them with just the hook allowing them to slowly into the water without using any weights to hinder their action.

To rig the cicadas, you first need to tie your hook to the fishing line using a clinch knot. Make sure that the knot is secured tightly by pulling on the hook so it doesn’t slip then cut off the “tag-end” of the line from the knot.

Run the hook carefully through the body of the cicadas. Avoid running the hook through the wings. This will allow you to cast more accurately without hindering the action of the wings.

You can also attach a float to your line at about 2 feet above the hook to help improve your casting.

Related Questions

What Do Cicadas Eat?

When cicadas are underground, the mainly feed on the juices and sap of the tree roots. However, once they emerge above the ground, the will feed on juices from plants and tree leaves without causing and damage to the trees.

Are Cicadas Dangerous? 

Cicadas are not dangerous. They won’t cause any harm to humans or the fish as they don’t bite or sting and they mostly stay outside. However, in areas of high concentrations of cicadas, they might cause some damage to trees when they lay their eggs on the young tree branches.

Can Humans Eat Cicadas?

Humans can eat cicadas. They’re known as the shrimp of the land and their taste is often compared to that of shellfish. You only need to rinse before cooking them without removing their legs or wings. Then, you can cook them with spices and olive oil.

Helpful Resources 

Brood X Periodical Cicadas FAQ

Brood X Cicadas Are Emerging at Last

Reliable Rods You Will Love (and Can Afford)

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