hellgrammite n Also helgrammite, heligramite, hellagrammite, hel(l)gamite, hellgermite, hellgomite, hel(l)gramite; abbr mite
1 The larva of the dobsonfly n, often used as bait. For other names see algamite n, alligator n1 B3, anaconda n, bogart n1, clipper n 3, conniption bug n, crawler n 1, crock n4, dobsonfly n, dragon n B2, flip-flap n 2, gator flea n, go-devil n 9, gogglegoy n, grampus n 3, hell-devil n, hell-diver n 8, hojack n 1, man-eater n 3, mulligrub n 2, pinching bug n 2, rock worm n 2, snake doctor n 1, snake feeder n 2, thunderbug n 1, toe-biter n 2
[1850 Daily Morning Post (Pittsburgh PA) 27 July /6, A gentleman in Diamond alley presented a chip hat to “Old Dad,” previous to his starting with the Helgramites, yesterday evening. 1851 Ibid 12 Aug /1,The Helgramite fishing club returned on Saturday . . from their annual excursion.] 1859 Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (WV) 1 Sept /1, A large party of our citizens . . left a day or two since for the classic shades of Middle Island Creek, where they intend to camp out for about a week. . . The fish “chiefly ketched thar,” are helgramites, bass, alligators, and mud turtles. 1866 Wilkes’ Spirit of Times 14.315, There is another bait for bass called kill devil a—sort of indescribable Barnum-what-is-it thing, about three inches in length. An old friend of mine denominated them “hell gramites.” I think it is the larva of one of the dragon flies; at any rate, it is a very good bait. 1884 Kingsley Std. Nat. Hist. 2.156, They [=Corydalus cornutus] are much sought after as fish-bait . . and they are called by fishermen “crawlers,” “dobsons,” and sometimes, we hope rarely, “hellgrammites.” 1887 Daily Amer. (Nashville TN) 25 June 2/7 csTN, “Hellgomites,” he replied, and held up a quinine bottle half full of fuzzy, white worms. . . “Some calls ’em godevils, . . but they’re hellgomites; don’t put yer finger in thar, they bites like the very devil. . . You fin’s ’em under the rotten logs,” the old man went on, “an’ they do make the finest bait a-goin; try one?” 1898 Sun (NY NY) 8 May sec 3 7/5, A sportsman . . protests that the described larva of the dragon fly was not the larva of that interesting winged insect at all, for the all-sufficient reason that the dragon fly was the completed metamorphosis of the aquatic grub familiarly known to all fishermen . . as the dobson, or hellgrammite. . . These protests have not surprised the writer, for the the expressed belief of his correspondents has been a common popular belief from time out of mind. . . Hellgrammite . . is the local name for this insect along the Mississippi river and the waters of that valley. 1940 Teale Insects 154, The underwater larvae of the Dobson flies are the familiar bass bait, hellgrammites. 1950 WELS Suppl. 1 Inf, cwWI, Hellgrammite: used here more than crawler. I hear Dobsonfly used by the conservation people. 1965–70 DARE (Qu. P6, . . Kinds of worms . . used for bait) 37 Infs, chiefly NEast, Appalachians, WI, West, Hellgrammite; 12 Infs, scattered, Hellgamite; NJ8, WV8, Hellgermite; (Qu. P13, . . Ways of fishing . . besides the ordinary hook and line) Infs NY71, PA168, Hellgrammite; GA1, Hellgamite; (Qu. P18, . . Kinds of shellfish) Inf OH77, Hellgamites, NY52, Hellagrammite; (Qu. P19, . . Small, freshwater crayfish) Infs NJ65, NY84, Hellgamites; CT10, Hellgrammite; (Qu. R3, Whitish, worm-like creatures, found in ponds, that hatch into dobsonflies, and are commonly used for fish bait; total Infs questioned, 75) Infs MS53, NM6, 13, Hellgrammite; OK11, Hellgrammite, mites; GA1, [ˈhɛlžəmaɪt; ˈhɛlǰəmaɪt]; (Qu. R4, A large winged insect that hatches in summer in great numbers around lakes or rivers, crowds around lights, lives only a day or so, and is good fish bait) Infs CT29, IN45, NY211, PA155, WY1, Hellgrammite; (Qu. R14, Small worm-like things . . that hatch into mosquitoes) Inf MA42, Hellgamites—I think they’re called this; (Qu. R21, . . Other kinds of stinging insects) Inf TX84, Hellgrammite, looks like a scorpion; (Qu. R23b, Blood-sucking creatures—in water) Inf PA242, Hellgamites. [Note: It is impossible to determine exactly what most of these Infs are referring to. All the relevant responses have been collected here, but some no doubt belong at other senses below.] 1982 Sternberg Fishing 85, Hellgrammites, or dobsonfly larvae, live in rocky streams and in some large lakes. They have a tough, brown body and protruding jaws that can inflict a painful bite. Some species grow to 3 inches in length. 2008 in 2020 DARE File—Internet IN, You catch your own mites. It’s easy . . . if you are willing to work. Just peel off shoes and socks, roll up trouser legs, and join the mites on the fast water with gravel, sand, or even boulder for a bottom. . . [P]ick the mites by the hard shell just behind the head and pincers which may be very large. 2018 Ibid eWV, [Advt:] We have a limited supply of Helgamites! Just delivered today! Best bait ever! Get in while they last! [Photo shows a dobsonfly larva.]
2 The nymph of a stonefly (family Plecoptera), often used as bait. chiefly West Cf devil scratcher n, salmonfly n, willow fly n 2
1891 Forest & Stream 36.152 seWY, He states that the helgramite is extremely common in the north fork of the Platte and its fly form, which is there known as the willow fly, is one of the best natural foods for trout. 1899 Amer. Angler (Ed. Harris) 29.57 csMT, The stream where I am is now all frozen . . so that at present I have not been able to get you any of the “devil scratchers” as all call the helgramites here. You seem to think I am surely mistaken about them being genuine. The kind we have here are found under the stones in the stream, and in July they turn to the trout fly. 1939 Daily Missoulian (Missoula MT) 24 Nov 10/3, Probably the most outstanding at this time of the year is the so-called hellgrammite which is widely used as whitefish bait. Actually this fellow is not a hellgrammite at all, being the larval form of the dobsonfly, while this fellow belongs to the Plecoptera or s[t]onefly group. 1962 San Francisco Examiner (CA) 22 Apr sec 3 5/2, Two of the best of these natural baits are the so-called hellgrammite, which may be found in the streams of the northern part of the Sierra, and the case worm. . . Our hellgrammite is the larva of the salmon fly. 1982 Daily Herald (Provo UT) 5 Aug 12/1, This time of year, small tidbits like caddis and their imitations work well. . . But the lower Provo is basically a hellgramite, or stone fly, stream. 1987 Riverbank News (CA) 15 July sec A 9/3, It really isn’t terribly important that you know that the scientific name of the bug you used to call a hellgramite is really a Pteronarcys Californica. 2012 in 2020 DARE File—Internet nwGA, Yall talkin bout a helgramite. (Stonefly larvae) Now thats good fishbait.
3 The nymph of a dragonfly n; sometimes spec, one of the longer, narrower sort belonging to the family Aeshnidae (in contradistinction to the shorter, wider ones belonging to the families Corduliidae and Libellulidae), often used as bait. esp WI, WA Cf long green n, perch bug n, rock fly n, spider n 3, thunderbug n 2
[1895 Daily Republican (Monongahela PA) 10 July /5, These dragon-flies develop from the “hellgrammites,” the ugly-looking worms that live on muddy creek-bottoms and that bass fishermen use so much for bait. [DARE Ed: Despite the explicit identification, this quot probably belongs at sense 1, where see quots 1866 and 1898.] ] 1950 WELS Suppl. 1 Inf, csWI, Helgamites/helgramites: Dragonfly larvae used as fish-bait. First pronunciation most common; with [r] less frequent. 1954 Janesville Daily Gaz. (WI) 20 Jan 12/4, Many fishermen mistake the the dragon-fly nymph for a hellgrammite. . . Dragon-fly nymphs vary in size depending on the particular species; some are short and stubby, others are long and slender much like the hellgrammite. 1969 Twin City News–Rec. (Menasha WI) 27 Feb 2/5, But hellgrammites became tricky to get in late summer, or we could get only small ones called spiders, or the price became too steep. 1973 Spokane Daily Chron. (WA) 5 Apr 6/1, [Caption:] These dragonfly nymphs, called hellgramites by fishermen, are one of the most effective baits at the region’s lakes. 1992 Albuquerque Jrl. (NM) 25 June sec B 3/4, Those “bugs” in Wickman’s comment are commonly called hellgrammites throughout northern New Mexico. They’re actually dragonfly nymphs. 2003 in 2020 DARE File—Internet ceWI, Hold on guys.The helgramites I was using were not the real thing these are dragonfly larvae.They are sold around here as helgramites.They an [sic for are] 1 1/2” long and green. 2003 Ibid cwWA, As far as I know the “hellgramites” which exist in the Columbia Basin lakes in numbers, are used successfully for bait in that area, and are even sold in some bait shops, are indeed dragon fly larvae. 2014 Ibid seWI, As I know it the rounder ones [=dragon fly larvae] I call rock Flies and the longer ones are helgramites. 2016 Ibid WA, [With photograph of a dragonfly and the shell it has emerged from:] Found this one just as it climbed up out of the lake on a stick and started hatching. It was pretty cool to watch the adult emerge from the nymph. As mentioned early in this thread we refer to them as hellgrammites. 2020 DARE File—Internet seWI, [Advt:] Hellgrammites. . . Spider Hellgrammites AKA – Rockflies, Thunderbugs . . Long Green Hellgrammites AKA – Dragonfly Larva.
4 = caseworm n. Cf reedamite n
1939 Herald–Press (St. Joseph MI) 7 Feb 5/3, The Trichoptera is the Caddis fly which many fishermen erroneously call the helgramite or reedamite. 2001 DARE File ceCA (as of c1970), Two of the most fascinating (to me) creatures were periwinkles and heligramites. They are both similar, with some kind of insect living inside a self-made tube of tiny rocks. The heligramites . . had round tubes, and the rocks were larger than in the periwinkles, which I preferred. 2008 in 2020 DARE File—Internet swCA, I’ve fished with helgramites, although we usually called them case worms.