2016-09-29 / Life in Leelanau

Are mayflies early or late?


AN UNUSUAL hatch of mayflies emerged on Lake Leelanau, including this one photographed near the Narrows. AN UNUSUAL hatch of mayflies emerged on Lake Leelanau, including this one photographed near the Narrows. Lake Leelanau hatched some big mayflies prematurely earlier this month, likely the result of an early start to summer and warm weather, especially in evenings, that extended until last week.

The mayflies, known in scientific terms as Hexagenia Limbatas, usually hatch and mate in early June in Lake Leelanau to complete a two-year life cycle.

But the big bugs, which are dining favorites of fish from perch to bass, hatched from underwater nymphs to flying adults twice this year. The late hatch was sporadic, and nothing like the swarms of mayflies that take over the skies near the Narrows Bridge earlier in the year.

Was MDNR fish biologist Heather Hettinger surprised to hear of the late hatch?

“Yes and no. It is getting on the late side of things, but we’re also having this crazy Indian summer going on. It’s not like the big rafts of bugs we get in June and July. It’s just a smaller group,” Hettinger said.

She said the mayflies hatching were probably just eggs in the summer of 2014.

Hettinger had also heard of a small hatch on an inland lake in Grand Traverse County.

“In some years, we would not have the right conditions for them to emerge. We typically don’t see mayfly hatches this late,” she added.

More due to the calendar than mayflies, Hettinger has also heard that perch fishing has picked up.

“I’ve heard a little bit of that going on on Glen Lake and Long Lake, and I’ve not heard from anyone on Lake Leelanau but it would be worth exploring if they’re getting them,” she said.

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