Doyle Coultas displays a sucker in front of a dogwood tree. When the dogwood blooms, suckers are on the riffles.
Sucker fishing may be a bit like snipe hunting. If people have ever heard of either, they think they are jokes, but both are real.
As a youngster, we neighbor kids used to take a new kid “snipe hunting.” The newby was taken out in the dark and given a bag to hold, and we would drive the snipe to him. In reality, we went off somewhere and laughed, and finally the new kid figured out he had been tricked.
In reality, snipes are migratory birds and there is a snipe season. And, there also are fish called suckers, that in early spring are fun to catch and good to eat.
“When the dogwood blooms, the suckers are on the riffles.” is an old saying about sucker fishing. In early spring about the time dogwood trees bloom, suckers move up stream from lakes or deeper water onto gravel riffles in the streams to spawn. It's one of the best times to catch these bottom feeding fish.
There are approximately 80 species of suckers. The ones I’m most familiar with are called white suckers.
Apparently the fish is commonly known as a “sucker” due to the flesh papillose (elongated and tube-like) lips that suck up organic matter from the bottom of rivers and streams.
White suckers, can be found in streams and lakes throughout the Midwest as well as in some other parts of the country. It is the most common and easily caught of the sucker family
Suckers are fighters, especially during spring spawn runs, when they congregate in streams. Suckers from lakes try to make their way into streams feeding the lakes. They travel to the streams to spawn.
The spring spawning runs of suckers from larger streams or lakes into small streams signall fishing season is once again underway.
Suckers are bottom feeders and primarily eat invertebrates such as insect larvae, scuds and crayfish, and they can be caught on a variety of worms, and can be caught on most any tackle from cane pole to spinning outfit, to flyrod.
Four-to-six pound test is good for suckers, since they probably will be found in clear water above gravel beds. Fish the bait directly on the bottom with a stationary rig using a sliding sinker, or a drifting rig that allows the bait to move along the bottom with the current.
Whether flyfishing or working with a more traditional rig such as a spinning outfit, you will find them in many locations from large lakes to small trout streams. In small streams, the suckers often are found in slower, deeper holes. However, fish which are actively feeding may be found in the main channel.
Interestingly enough, most good trout streams have sizable sucker populations. They like clear, clean water, and spawn on gravel bottoms. As a youngster, I hiked high into the Rockies and in a valley found dozens of trout in a small stream, but quickly learned they were suckers.
The Kentucky record for a white sucker is 1.63 pounds and date back to 1996 in Slate Creek in Montgomery County. The record for a redhorse sucker is nine-pounds, one-once caught in 2003 in the Rockcastle River.
While many people think suckers are inedible, the sucker actually has a very tasty, sweet meat. The problem is suckers are filled with tiny bones. The secret to preparing them is scoring the fish with a sharp knife all the way down to the skin, cutting the bones as well as the meat.
After scoring, the fish are battered in cornmeal or your favorite batter. When cooked in the hot grease, the smaller bones will dissolve and you will have tender pieces of delicious fish.
Suckers are fun to catch and good to eat. When the dogwood blooms, try your luck for some sucker fishing.
Soc Clay has been a friend for many years, and I’ve always admired his photographic and written outdoor works. Truth is, he has been one of my idols.
I’ve learned a lot from Soc, especially related to outdoor photography. I just wished I had retained 10 percent of what he taught.
Soc, who hails from the hills of Eastern Kentucky near South Shore, has a newly released book. It is named “Bassin Around Kentucky,” and is said to be the most complete bass fishing book ever written about bass fishing in Kentucky.
This treasure of bass stories, bass lore and bass fishing tips, is the results of more than 60 years of devoted bass fishing experience around the commonwealth by Kentucky’s senior outdoor communicator, Soc Clay.
He has fished with hundreds of Kentuckians on lakes, reservoirs, stream and rivers. He’s as handy with a casting or spinning rod, as he is a flyrod. And the application of all three methods to seek out bass from top to bottom at all times of the year.
Soc has been fortunate to fish with some of the best bass anglers who live in Kentucky and the pros who come to fish in Kentucky. Ray Scott, founder of BASS, is a personal friend and both have learned from each over about the bass fishing world and how it applies to both new comers to the sport as well as to seasoned veterans.
Readers will discover master advice from the masters of bass anglers across Kentucky. They will be introduced to legends like Charley and Ernie Taylor of Somerset, of Billy Westmoreland, Fred Martin, Buddy Banks, Tom Applegate, Freddy Hall Barry Dean Martin, Bob Dillow, Bill Sauer and a hundred others too numerous to name.
Soc picks these anglers because they have special ways to catch bass. There’s a story about Billy Phillips, a lady’s shoe salesman catching bass from six inches of water when water tempts are reaching toward 90 degrees. They will read about Ricky Craft a deputy sheriff, who knows how to catch bass in the middle of winter- in shallow water!
Also included is the history of the Kentucky Reels that was invented in Paris (KY) and the development of the casting and spinning reels from the early 1800s until today.
Flyrodders will read about the history of fly-fishing in America- and heck, this is a big book, so they will hear about Soc’s upbringing and how he learned to fish.
The book sells for $20, tax and shipping included. Autographed copies are available from Fern Hollow Publishing, 350 Fern Hollow, South Shore, KY 41175; firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (606) 932-4126. This book will be available at several outlets in Kentucky and can be ordered from Amazon, Kindle and other online outlets
At age 39-plus, Peyton Manning won his second Super Bowl ring. The first one came with the Indianapolis Colts, and this one with the Denver Broncos.
The feat was exceptional for Peyton at his age. In fact it is exceptional for anyone at any age. However, what Peyton did as a 39-year-old battered National Football League player will long be remembered and admired.
So it was with interest recently that some writers brought up Peyton’s name in a comparison with the feat of professional bass angler Rick Clunn, who now is 69 years old and won the recent Bassmaster Elite series.
On Nov. 5, 1976, Clunn, who hails from Missouri, claimed his first B.A.S.S. victory in the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville.
It was his first giant step toward becoming a true legend in the sport of professional fishing as Peyton has become a living legend in professional football..
Earlier in March of this year, Rick won for the 15th time on the B.A.S.S. circuit — and in many ways, this step might have gone even further toward cementing his legacy.
Clunn, who will turn 70 in July, caught five bass that weighed 19 pounds during Sunday’s championship round and won the Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns River in Florida easily with a four-day weight of 81-15. The win was bolstered by a monumental catch of 31-7 during Saturday’s semifinal round.
“I was certainly feeling some pressure after having such a big weight yesterday,” said Clunn, who finished 4 pounds ahead of second-place finisher Greg Hackney (77-15). “Through the years, you just learn to hide it better. Having my son (River) here helped a lot.”
After catching 16-11 and 14-13 the first two days, Clunn was in 31st place and seemed a longshot to make Sunday’s Top 12 championship cut. But the incredible catch of 31-7, which ranked as the third-best five-bass limit of his career, gave him the lead going into the final round with 62-15.
And while Peyton Manning has decided it is time to retire from the batterings in pro football, Clunn has not talked about any plans to hang up his rod on the pro circuit.
Locating turkey tracks can lead to a successful hunt.
Some turkey hunters get lucky on opening morning. They forget and slam the truck door, as a result a turkey gobbles nearby, and within minutes they have bagged a tom.
The above scenario isn’t the norm. It is very, very rare, but I’ve been present when it happened. However, the best way to increase the odds of a successful hunt takes some time and work prior to opening morning.
The spring turkey season dates for Indiana are April 23-24 for the youth only hunt and regular season is April 27 through May 16.
The turkey experts at the National Wild Turkey Federation say, “As spring openers beckon, most turkey hunters practice calling, sight in their guns and ready their camo. One task is more important than all others, though: learning the whereabouts and habits of turkeys where you hunt.”
In a NWTF news release, it suggests the process of locating birds “should start weeks before the season. If you plan to hunt new or unfamiliar ground, learn everything you can about the layout, terrain and foliage.
“Study aerial photographs and topographic maps. Walk the land, and take mental notes of fences, creeks, marshes, draws, ridges, buildings, agricultural fields, timber stands and property boundaries.
“As spring nears and winter flocks of turkeys begin to break up, begin your scouting in earnest. Take an outside-in approach by glassing fields and open timber from roads or high points. Sit at high ridge tops or the edges of timber to listen for roost-gobbling. Make frequent trips, and note how gobblers seem to be dispersing across the landscape.
“Talk to landowners, mail carriers, truck drivers and other hunters to learn where they encounter turkeys. Their observations might provide a missing link you haven’t discovered.
“After you get a good sense of what’s happening, put boots on the ground to learn the details. Listen for early morning gobbling, and try to pinpoint roosting areas. Observe potential feeding and strutting areas, such as meadows, food plots, open benches or crop fields. Watch how birds travel to and from roosts to feeding areas. Note how turkeys react to various weather conditions, including bright high-pressure mornings and rainy, windy days.
“Turkeys won’t always be talkative or visible, so search for other clues. Tracks, droppings and strut marks can reveal travel, loafing or feeding areas. Droppings and feathers — especially primary wing feathers — near suitable trees might reveal roosts. Dusting areas can be hidden gems, as turkeys visit these frequently during the day.
“As you find sign, look around for potential setup spots or ambush sites. A hot field edge might be the perfect place for a pop-up blind. A cattle-gate crossing with a large burr oak nearby provides a dandy setup.
Disturb your hunting area as little as possible while you scout.
“Always listen and glass ahead of you, and move carefully to avoid bumping birds. Use locator calls if you wish, but don’t run turkey calls. The turkey talk itself won’t scare gobblers, but you don’t want to risk accidentally yelping in a bird and spooking it.
“In the days before the opener, take stock of all your information and plot strategy. Identify the best spots for fly-down hunts. Note places to intercept birds as they eat or travel. And plot out good plan B spots where you can cold-call or walk and call during quiet late mornings.
“One caveat: No matter how well you scout and prepare, turkeys will throw you curves, even opening day. That’s OK. Apply the knowledge you’ve gained and adapt your approach. You can never learn too much about the land and turkeys you’re hunting. Not knowing enough, however, can leave you shaking your head while holding an unfilled tag
Mention “carp” fish and most folks will either turn up their noses, make some negative remark, or simply have a blank stare.
Common carp have been around for years. They are native to Europe and Asia, but now have been introduced and spread throughout most of the world, except the Middle East and the arctics. They have created problems in some streams and lakes, but for the most part have been controlled.
Now new types or carp like the silver and bighead carp are increasing problems in the United States. The main problem is they compete with native game fish for food. And, jumping silver carp can be dangerous to boaters. They get sizable and can strike a boater, causing injury.
Recently, someone asked me about the carp, which has been around the Midwest for many years.
Back in 1653 Izaak Walton wrote in The Compleat Angler, "The Carp is the queen of rivers; a stately, a good, and a very subtle fish; that was not at first bred, nor hath been long in England, but is now naturalised."
Carp are variable in terms of angling value, In Europe, even when not sought for food, they are eagerly sought by anglers, being considered highly prized coarse fish that are difficult to catch. They are considered a sport fish, probably equal to largemouth bass in the U.S.
The UK has a thriving carp (rough fish) angling market. It is the fastest growing angling market in the UK, and has spawned a number of specialized carp angling publications.
As a kid growing up in Eastern Illinois, there were no public lakes. Our fishing was primarily limited to creeks and rivers like Big Creek and the Wabash River.
While carp never have been near the top of my list of good eating fish, as a youngster when we caught small carp (up to about three pounds) in clear cool spring water and fried by my mother, they were pretty good eating.
My dad had a recipe for dough balls he used for carp bait. He added a bit of strawberry jello and the carp seemed to favor the concoction.
I also recall during later years when fishing in Minnesota with Indian guides, we never fished for carp, but if we caught one, the guides wanted to keep it. They would smoke the carp and they were tasty.
Today in the U,S, carp are considered a rough fish, as well as damaging to naturalized exotic species, but with sporting qualities. Many states' departments of natural resources are beginning to view the carp as an angling fish instead of a maligned pest.
Groups such as Wild Carp Companies,[ American Carp Sociiety and the Carp Anglers Group promote the sport and work with fisheries departments to organize events to introduce and expose others to the unique opportunity the carp offers freshwater anglers. The groups promote tournaments and special fishing events throughout the country.
CarpAnglingGroup.com has considerable carp fishing information, including “Tips and Advice for Beginners.”
When early March rolls around many people think spring. Admittedly, I’m in the group that gets a bit over anxious for warmer days. I’m thinking warm breezes, morel mushrooms and crappie.
Sometimes the reality is snow and ice, or other nasty weather as the year’s third month begins. It is not unusual to find the ground covered with some of the heaviest snows of the winter in March. The good news is the white stuff usually doesn’t stick around very long.
Weather Channel statistics show the average daily high temperature in southern Indiana during March is 55 with a nighttime low of 35. That is reason for optimism as that is about 10 degrees warmer than the February numbers. And the second half of the month statistically, the high temperatures should be well into the 60’s.
There’s an old saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb,” or if March comes in like a lamb (nice weather), it will go out like a lion (bad). I don’t know that anyone has researched the accuracy of the saying, but stats show the end of the month is warmer than the start.
This year’s extended weather forecast is for a lamb start of the month. I don’t remember all of the bad March storms in recent years or whether or not the months started as lambs or lions. However, there have been a number storms that have found there way between those longer and warmer days I look forward to in March.
Being a month of significant weather change, most anything can happen, and frequently does. At the end of the month in 1987 (March 30) a heavy snow blanketed most of the Ohio River Valley, and a year later, a two-inch glaze of ice covered much of the same area.
In 1990 on March 10, a warm front produced a number of storms, including damaging 65 mile per hour winds in Kentucky, and back on March 21, 1952, a series of tornados killed 343 people, including a number in the Bluegrass state.
It also was during March in 1913 and 1936 when rains and melting snow caused significant river flooding throughout the Ohio River valley.
Hopefully, this year we will have uneventful March weather. Shortly, the crocus will appear and not far behind will be the daffodil. Those hardy, beautiful yellow flowers first bloom on the south side of the hill, and are a pleasant reminder than spring is at hand. The morel mushrooms can’t be far behind. I’ve found morels as early as the last week in March, but it usually is the second week in April before they appear in sizable numbers.
As nice days begin to appear, it is time to get out for a hike, fishing for suckers, sauger and crappie, and a good time to scout for turkeys.
Who originated the old saying about March and the lion and lamb, no one seems to know. There also is a poem on the subject, and the author also is unknown.