Catching Walleye during a Mayfly Hatch

Frank Smith

Anyone who lives near Lake Erie is familiar with the massive Mayfly hatches we endure each spring around this time. In the “nymph” stage, they can live under water for several years. As they mature, the metamorphoses of the nymph into a mature Mayfly happens over several stages of molts, and when they reach the surface of the lake, or river, they are winged little beauties that will live for only one day.  Their only purpose at this stage is to mate and reproduce. It’s kind of sad when you think about it really, they finally free themselves of the water, and all that would gladly eat them, only to be able to soar like an eagle for one day, and then they die. 

But, don’t feel too sorry for them. They tend to make a mess of all our surroundings as they look for a mate and their final resting place. Buildings and sidewalks can be covered completely when those who live, or work in those buildings, forget to turn their lights out at night. The clouds of insects that hover over warmer roadways hit your windshield like a heavy rain, and smear terribly when you use your wipers to clean them off. And, besides the mess they make, the fishing becomes a little tougher when the hatch is in full bloom, because the fish can forage on them as they are rising from the bottom of the lake, becoming direct competition with our offerings.

This brings me to the question, “How can we improve our catch during this time”? And, while it’s never easy, improving your chances can be.  Since the walleye and other species are eating these delectable little bugs, it makes sense to try to “match the hatch” in your presentation. What does this mean? It means downsizing your presentation.

For instance, I like to troll with crawler harnesses where I typically use big #6 Colorado blade, or an even bigger presentation with a double willow leaf crawler harness, so in order for me to “match the hatch”, I would want to replace my #6 blade with a smaller #4 or #5 blade. Or, even better, change it out completely with an Indiana style blade that can be run slower than a Colorado blade and still impart great action.

For drift casters, the same holds true in that they can use an Indiana blade with much more success. One advantage a caster will have over a troller during a big hatch is their ability to cast out, let the lure flutter to the bottom, and then slowly reel the lure back up, imitating what the Mayflies do in real life. When it comes to ‘matching the hatch’, it doesn’t get anymore similar than a lure that flutters from the bottom upward to the surface.

If you find yourself out there scratching your head wondering why the fishing is more difficult, try downsizing your presentation and see what happens. It’s not a guarantee, but it will increase your chances until the hatch is finally over.

Good luck and be safe!

For more information, Captain Juls can be contacted by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or by phone at 419-835-7347. Her website is  Check out her blog for her latest fishing reports.

back to top