Fishing with hellgrammites is an underutilized tactic that can help you increase your catch rates. Hellgrammites are large aquatic insects that can be a big meaty meal for a fish. These insects are also common. Before they turn into adult dobsonflies, hellgrammites spend years crawling around on river bottoms. They can also get knocked loose and floating with the current.
People have been fishing with live hellgrammites in certain areas for years. They use a net or even their hands to collect live hellgies. That’s not without its risks. Hellgrammites can put a pretty good pinch on a finger with their front jaws.
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Lately there are more artificial hellgrammites available than I have ever seen in the past. There are Custom Hellgrammites in different sizes and colors. There are scented Gulp! Hellgrammites and Nikko Hellgrammites. Then there is the Case Plastics Hellgrammite. There is even a small Trout Magnet Hellgrammite. When it comes to flies, a lot of people think the woolly worm looks like a hellgrammite in the water.
Any of these artificials are a lot easier to use than real hellgrammites. And they can be nearly as effective when fished the right way. So it looks like the word is getting out on fishing with hellgrammites.
What kind of fish eat hellgrammites?
I would wager to say that most fish will eat hellgrammites. If a fish of any kind comes across a hellgrammite and can fit it into its mouth, they will probably eat it. An exception might be a specialist feeder like a paddlefish or bighead carp. Generally speaking though these insects are food for any fish that find them.
Hellgrammites typically live in clean well oxygenated water. So they often share swims with species like smallmouth bass and rainbow trout. They can wash down out of clean feeder streams into larger and dirtier waters though. So don’t be afraid to fish them in a local river even if it doesn’t look like it belongs on a postcard.
Fish don’t necessarily need to be experienced with hellgrammites to eat them either. I have seen steelhead out of the great lakes smash a hellgrammite fished on a jig head. Did they know what they were eating? I can’t be sure. But they did eat.
How to fish with hellgrammites
There are a few basic ways to fish with hellgrammites. They all work in the right situation. They aren’t very complicated either.
When fishing with live hellgrammites, people will usually run a size 6 or size 8 hook through the middle of the insect. Then they either fish the insects under a slip float in deep water or with a free line rig in shallower flows. You don’t need to do much more than put a hook and a single split shot on your line to get hellgrammite out in front of hungry fish. Just watch out for your fingers.
What about soft plastic hellgrammites? Well, you can pretty much fish these in the same way. But unless you are fishing with a scented lure you are going to have to watch for the bite a little more carefully. Fish like trout will suck in a fake bait and spit it out before you can count to one. So if you aren’t ready to set the hook on any slight bite you might miss out.
One thing you can do is to rig an artificial hellgrammite on a floating drift rig. Then you just watch the float and strike on the slightest indication of a bite. Another method you can use is to fish a hellgrammite on a jig head and then scoot it or jig it down around the bottom. In that case you can expect more forceful hits from aggressive fish.
No matter how you fish them, hellgrammites will catch a lot of fish. If you haven’t tried them out before, you should considering fishing with hellgrammites if you wet a line in moving water.