Sucker fishing, snipe hunting aren't jokes; well maybe when you are a kid
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.