Fish like bugs, and kids do, too

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

BLOOMINGTON — Ethan Takekawa looked at the big brown bug in the white tray.

The five-year-old from Minneapolis looked again, looked back at his dad, wondering what to do. He touched the hellgramite for a second. It didn’t hurt, so he touched it again.

"Neat," he said.


Dean Hansen smiled.

He had hooked another youth on bugs. And maybe the boy would get interested in the streams where they live and eventually work to protect the streams, said the Stillwater insect expert.

He was at the 2008 Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo in Bloomington two weeks ago, and seldom had a chance to do anything but answer questions about big and little bugs, crayfish and large beetles.

Identifying insects can help anglers better understand a stream and match their flies or other lures to what’s living there. "If you want to catch fish, which is sort of the object of trout fishing, you have to know what the fish are feeding on," he said.

Trout take lures that best mimic what they are eating, and to find out, you generally need to lift up rocks or poke into hiding places where crayfish live, Hansen said. Anglers also need to know about insects that are hatching, and when they hatch, again, to give the trout what they want, he said.

But the bugs can do more than help anglers — they can hook children.

While presenting classes in schools and expos, he said he’s found that children, not adults, are most fascinated. When he tells women that there are bugs in the Apple River in Wisconsin, many say they will never go tubing again. But the fact is, large numbers of such bugs indicate a healthy river. And those insects are some of the major food sources for trout, smallmouth bass and other fish.

One adult once suggested he put the pictures and information on a CD, but Hansen isn’t all that interested. Children have to see and feel the caddis, hellgramites, beetles and other insects.


"It’s the fact that it’s alive. I see this over and over and over again," he said. "I get kids jumping up and down. They get so excited. I don’t know that it is. They (bugs) wiggle, they swim, tickle if you pick them up."

Another boy fascinated by the bugs was Max Holden, 7, of the Twin Cities. Like Ethan, he couldn’t keep his eyes or hands off those insects and other critters that live in streams. "I think they’re pretty cool because I’ve never seen one before," he said.

Again, Hansen smiled.

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