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By Dan Beard

Figs. 84, 85, and 86. 
The Young and Adult Corydalus.

Hellgramites, Bogerts, Hojack, Dobsons, or Clippers

The first one of these frightful, black, squirming creatures that I ever remember of seeing, inspired me with a terror it has taken years to overcome.  I was bathing in a pool in the little muddy stream of Bank-lick, near Covington, Ky.  I had advanced far enough in the art of swimming only to be able, with safety, to swim across the pool.

While I was about half way across on one of these trips, a sudden pinch on my back announced the fact that I had been attacked by some native of the stream.

I looked over my shoulder in alarm, and there I saw what was to me then an unknown animal.  It was about as long as my finger, black as could be, and apparently with as many legs as a centipede.  It had fastened its pincers in my back, and hung on until I reached the opposite shore, where one of my companions picked it off, to my great relief.

Since then I learned that this was only a good black bass bait which had so terrified me, and that, although it can pinch quite sharply, it is a harmless insect.

Another Adventure

The next adventure I had with a hellgramite was at Niagara Falls. It was when the old tower still stood upon a rock on the brink of the cataract, but a large sign marked


warned all visitors off the bridge leading to the tower.  Boy-like, I traversed the bridge to the point where the sign barred farther progress, and here I leaned upon the barrier and watched the green water tumble over the falls.  And as I watched I saw a living thing on a rock upon the very brink of Niagara.  It was in the act of crawling out of its old skin.  There was no doubt in my mind that what I saw was an insect, but it was such an insect as I had never before encountered.  Gradually it shook out its beautiful lace-like wings, and then I climbed over the danger sign, threw myself flat on the rock, reached over the edge, picked the insect from its giddy perch, transferred it to my hat, put my hat on, and hastened to the hotel to examine my prize.

It looked like a sort of comical dragon-fly, with very long pincers, which opened and closed in a most threatening manner, but I knew the thing could do no harm, because it was still soft, like a soft-shell crab. This was a large male corydalus in its perfect form. It was a full-grown hellgramite, and the first adult insect of its kind I had ever seen.

Fishing for Hojacks with a Net

From the foregoing ft may be seen that this bait passes part of its life in the water and part in the air and on land.  With the perfect insect we have little to do, but the ugly black babies we need for perch and bass, and we must catch them with a small dip-net made of mosquito-netting.

Wading up stream, and coming to a flat stone, place the net on the down-stream side of the stone, and then lift up the stone.  The bait that are underneath will float into the net.  Some, however, may be glued to the stone by their sticky tails, and these must be picked off and placed in your pail or box.  Along the edge of the stream in the wet sand or gravel, under the stones, is also a lurking-place for bogerts.

The Time when Bogerts are Best

About the 1st of June, when the young corydalus feels that it is about to change into a lace-winged insect, it scrambles out of the water and crawls rapidly about in search of a suitable dressing-room, where it may change its clothes. The under surface of an old board, stone, or log, or even the undersides of the shingles of a house, not too far from the water are the places chosen. At this time the insects are best suited to the purposes of the fishermen, being exceedingly tough and hard to kill. One bait frequently serves to catch several fish. At this stage the hellgramites are called crawlers.

Within a rude earthen cell, the crawler remains in sort of mummy-like condition until about the 1st of July, when it bursts forth from its shell (pupa) a perfect-winged insect. The female has short pincers and the male ferocious-looking long ones. Both sexes, however, are perfectly harmless.

How to Keep Dobsons or Clippers Alive.

Select a good wooden box, about two feet by a foot at the base and six inches or a foot high. Bore holes in the lid of the box to admit air. Cover the bottom of the box with dry gravel, and dump your dobsons, clippers, bogerts, or hellgramites, as the larva or young corydalus is variously called, according to the part of the country you happen to be in. Keep the box in a dark, cool place.

I have kept hellgramites in a box of this description for thirty days without losing a single insect, all of them being apparently tougher and livelier at the end of a month than they were when first placed in the box.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.