You can see the magic happen every time you witness a mayfly hatch on a South Carolina lake, river or stream. The water boils with fast-biting fish, and adrenalin-charged anglers know it’s a unique fishing opportunity.
Ross Self, chief of fisheries for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources said the magic for fishermen is only half the story, as the mighty mayfly provides profound benefit to many piscatorial species.
“Mayflies provide a great service to fishermen and fish,” Self said. “The mayfly hatches provide a hot spot for fishermen who find them fast-paced action hard to match. Many think primarily of catching bream in a mayfly hatch but they are great for attracting black bass, white bass, crappie, catfish, perch and trout in the right environment.
“Mayflies also provide an outstanding localized food source for many species of fish, and they actually provide this food over a long period of time,” he said. “There are three primary stages in the life of the mayfly, and these succulent morsels are vulnerable to different fish species during each stage. In the nymph stage, they attach to rocks, vegetation and bottom substrate and are easy targets for bottom feeders. There’s a metamorphosis or transitional state where they rise to surface through water column and become vulnerable to other species. When they emerge they sit on the surface while unfolding their wings before they can fly and are easy targets by many surface-feeding fish species. This is where fishermen really interact with mayflies and fish. In this final stage they fly, reproduce and fall again to the water, providing yet another opportunity for fish.”
Self said fishermen usually enjoy the benefits of the final stage when they emerge, but the nymph stage actually lasts for a substantial period, providing a fairly long-term food supply.
“There are around 185 documented mayfly species in South Carolina, and many have specific types of aquatic environments where they thrive,’ he said. “They’re present in most of our lakes and rivers, and their presence – or lack thereof – can be a great indicator of water quality. We check for certain species of mayflies on specific bodies of water as water quality indicators. They are short-lived but powerful indicators of the local ecosystem.
“Perhaps the greatest tribute I can give them is there are no negative issues with mayflies,” Self said. “They are an important part of the ecology and provide an essential role in the ecological chain, including a carbon exchange as they transform algae into mayfly and mayflies become food for fish and on up the food chain. They are a key to balancing our ecosystem, and it is an essential and fascinating role.”
For fishermen armed with live bait, small spinners, fly rods and poppers or even a wad of mayflies crammed on a hook, a mayfly hatch provides some of the most exciting and diverse fishing in South Carolina. Enjoy the diverse fish-attracting power of the mighty mayfly now and throughout the summer on your local lake or river.