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Your Guide to Cicada Emergence Fishing

You’ve likely heard the buzz about this year’s cicada abundance. Let’s look at this special occurrence and how to make the most of the resultant opportunities to catch more bass and other gamefish.

CicadaCicada

Every few years, nature treats us to a phenomenon that leaves anglers buzzing with anticipation – and this is one such year. In 2024, the periodical cicada emergence will provide anglers with unique opportunities to catch fish using specialized techniques and strategies to take advantage of the presence of this abundant natural food source.

When cicadas emerge in large numbers, they provide a plentiful food source for bass and other gamefish. This abundance can lead to increased gamefish feeding activity and focus on cicadas, making them more likely to strike at baits and presentations that mimic these abundant and tasty treats. This year, there will be an extra good opportunity for anglers to take advantage of a cicada bonanza!

Cicada Dual Emergence

Crickhopper Popper largemouth bassCrickhopper Popper largemouth bass

Most folks the central and southeastern United States are familiar with the summer sounds of cicadas chirping to each other among the trees. This happens every late spring and summer with annual cicadas, which appear from underground hibernation each year to feed and mate to produce the next generation. Periodical cicadas are very different in that they stay underground, growing and feeding for either 13 or 17 years, depending on the brood, before surfacing in large numbers to sprout their wings, sing their song, find a mate, and then die – all within a 6- to 8-week period. 

When these periodical Cicadas emerge to join the annual cicadas, there is a surge in the presence of cicadas well beyond a normal year. In 2024, the annual cicadas are joined by not just one periodical brood but two different broods, creating massive cicada numbers from late spring through mid-summer in many areas. It is estimated that more than one trillion periodical cicadas may emerge underground between late April and May in the Southeast and through June further north. The last time there was a dual brood emergence in North America was in 2015, and the next dual brood emergence will not be until 2037. This combination of the annual and periodic cicadas will create a unique and exciting opportunity for anglers this season!

There are more than 3,000 cicada species in the world, but only nine broods appear in either 13- or 17-year cycles. Seven of these broods are located in North America. This year, the emergence of the 17-year brood will primarily be in Illinois, with some overlap with neighboring states. The 13-year brood emergence will occur across the South, stretching from Missouri and Arkansas to the east and into Virginia. Some areas will have more cicadas than others, creating minimal to dense emergence population zones.

Cicada Bloom Fishing Opportunities

Pond Magic BuzzbaitPond Magic Buzzbait

Mimicking cicadas can be an effective fishing strategy during the cicada emergence, when more than a few of these big insects find themselves displaced and struggling on the surface in streams and lakes. Bass and other fish species recognize easy protein sources and begin watching the surface. The fish will move into shallow water near the shore, especially around banks lined with trees and other vegetation where cicadas are abundant. By casting cicada-imitating lures in these areas, anglers can target actively feeding fish and trick them into a topwater bite. 

In addition to largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, which provide the primary opportunities during this event, other species that key on cicadas include rock bass, warmouths and rainbow and brown trout. Even bluegills and near cousins like redbreasts and redears, may not engulf whole cicadas, but they will attack them and small topwater lures that imitate them.

Cicada activity is usually more intense during certain times of the day. Late morning through early afternoon, when temperatures are warmer, can be a peak time, with more cicadas on the move. Fishing during this peak time may provide the best chance to take advantage of bass actively targeting cicadas. This doesn’t mean other times of the day can’t be fruitful. In truth, the cicadas should only enhance traditional early morning and evening topwater bite windows. 

Bass are visual predators and are attracted to movement on the surface. Recreating a cicada's frantic buzzing and fluttering motion can attract the bass's attention, triggering a predatory strike! Pauses are also important. Displaced terrestrial insects of all kinds typically pause periodically to try to regain orientation and try to find safety.

Finding the right areas on the water to target can be a key. Cicadas often seek shade when they emerge, and bass in those areas will be on alert. Target shaded areas such as overhanging trees, docks, and other vegetation where cicadas are likely to congregate.

Cicada-Imitating Lure Options

Cicada imitating luresCicada imitating lures

When selecting lures, choose those that resemble the appearance of cicadas.

They are known for their distinctively dark bodies, transparent wings, and orange-veined accents. Mature cicadas are usually 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. 

A variety of lures can effectively mimic a cicada. Topwater lure and baits that work just beneath the surface tend to work best. Good options include poppers, prop baits, small walking baits, and shallow floater/divers.

Some of the best popper-style options include the Rebel Crickhopper Popper and the smallest Arbogast Hula Popper, which are 1 3/4- and 1/4 inches long, respectively, and have “buggy” profiles. Working these erratically, mixing quick pops and pauses, can imitate a cicada caught on the water and struggling to get free. An easy target for a hungry bass!

Shallow-running lure designed to imitate insects that work well at this time include the Rebel Bighopper and Bumble Bug. Although both are officially shallow crankbaits, quick twitches make them dance very erratically on the surface to suggest a struggling cicada. Either can also be “waked” with slow reeling and the rod kept high, so they wobble right at the surface.

For topwater plug options, check out the Heddon Crazy Crawler, Teeny Torpedo, and smallest Arbogast Jitterbug. Each has a distinctive sound and action. Another lure option that can mimic the cicada activity and allows you to cover more water and work through sparse cover is a BOOYAH Pond Magic Buzzbait. Experiment with different baits and cadences to find what is working on that day and at that time. 

The spring and early summer seasons provide a short window of opportunity to take advantage of this rare event. Be ready and pay attention to the weather and environment, watching for the emergence of the cicadas. Once it happens, the next 6 to 8 weeks should generate the most abundant cicada bloom in almost a decade. Get out and use some of these baits and techniques to see if you can turn this wonder of nature into some big fish catches!

river bass on Crickhopper Popperriver bass on Crickhopper Popper