With just a little thought and early preparation, they’re really no big deal.
If you have been lucky enough to enjoy the north country’s prime fishing period of Memorial Day to the third week of June, you probably ran into these tiny little pests. Much like a mid-western “chigger,” they make a small nip to pool a droplet of blood. They tend to bite where they find the most protection from being brushed off: top of your socks, around the collar or sleeve edge of your shirt, around your ears, and the hair-line on the back of your neck. They are attracted most to dark colors (blue!), and are drawn to body heat in the early morning and after dinner.
The best repellents are 3-M’s Ultrathon and Bug Stop. Wear light colors, tuck your pants into the top of your socks, and tie a bandana around your neck.
These miniature vampires are most often experienced from mid-June to the later part of July. If you have no repellent, and get out on a still evening or a long damp portage during this period, they can be awful. On the other hand, they are very easy to repel.
We have found most name-brand repellents work well. You need some amount of DEET in the formula, but 25-40% is plenty. More than that percentage often produces headache and nausea in some people. We suggest the following forms in our order of preference: stick, roll-on, pump spray, aerosol spray, and lastly, lotion.
These fellows have no direct impact on paddlers. They can, however, have a very big impact on fishermen … especially those hunting smallmouth bass. Actually it is the nymph stage, or “hatch” that is the biggest concern. Over the one week (+) period when they grow towards their adult stage, the bass slurp these critters by the gut-full. Fishing can get really tough.
The easiest solution is to switch to walleye or northern pike. They both feed on them also, but to a much lesser extent.