John's Journal... Entry 170, Day 1
GIGGING A SUCKER
EDITOR'S NOTE: One of the most-unique ways of taking fish in many states is gigging. Although some fishermen will curl their lips and stick up their noses at the thoughts of taking fish with a gig, more than likely these same fishermen have never been sucker gigging. In many areas of the country, gigging and eating suckers have a long and illustrious history. But I know of nowhere in the nation where the sport has evolved to a higher level than on the Current River in southeast Missouri. This week we will look at sucker gigging and learn, why, when, how and where folks go into the black night in aluminum boats with gigs to take suckers.
"Get that sucker". "Don't let that sucker get away from you." "Stick that sucker." "I can't believe that I missed that sucker." "There's a sucker, get him before he gets away!" "That sorry sucker, he went left when I went right."
These words are just some of what you'll hear when you go sucker gigging on the Current River in Missouri. I never had gigged suckers before I went to Missouri a couple of weeks ago, nor could I ever see a reason for wanting to gig suckers. However, near the town of Birch Tree, Missouri, sportsmen enjoy gigging suckers on the Current River. According to Donald Black of Van Buren, Missouri, "No one can remember a time when people didn't gig suckers on the Current River. In the early days, giggers used pine knots to light to see the suckers on the bottom at night. Sucker gigging has been a part of our history I guess for as long as there has been a Current River."
When sucker-gigging season begins in September, the Current River looks like the Las Vegas strip because of the large number of giggers in "sucker boats" with bright halogen lights out gigging for suckers. "On opening weekend, there will usually be 1500 or more sucker boats on the river," Black reports. The Current River is crystal clear. Clear water and plenty of shallow water are critical ingredients for being able to gig suckers because before you can gig a sucker, you have to see that sucker. Once you spot a sucker you have to have the skill of a medieval spear chunker and the finesse of a world-champion frog gigger to deliver the blow that results in a sucker dinner. That's right, suckers are good to eat. Don't turn your nose at the thought of eating a sucker as I did, if you have never tried one. As a one-night veteran sucker gigger, I can tell you that my opinion of sucker gigging and my firm belief that suckers aren't good to eat have been drastically changed. Lest you think that the Current River is only inhabited by these bottom feeders that many consider trash fish, you need to know that the Current River has a great population of smallmouth bass. An angler may catch and release 20-30 smallmouth that will weigh from 1/2-lb to 5-pounds in the river.
To learn more about gigging suckers on the Current River, you can contact Donald Black at P.O. Box 217, Van Buren, Missouri, 63965 or (573) 323-4033.
TOMORROW: SUCKER-GIGGING EQUIPMENT