Sucker fish aren’t sexy. They don’t fight like steelhead. They’re not huge like catfish. They’re definitely not great to eat like walleye. (I don’t care what my buddies say, there are just some meats that a smoker can’t fix.) But this time every year I just can’t wait to set a hook to one of these rubber-lipped freakshows.
Chasing suckers marks the beginning of my fishing season. The first trip carries all of the anticipation of those first few really nice days of spring. Like the first day of the year that you can drive home from work with windows down in the truck. The sun shining. Music blasting. You just can’t help but to be in a great mood.
Digging the rods and reels out of storage my mind races with images of last season’s trophies. The anticipation of what’s ahead charges me up. Every year I get more optimistic that it’s going to be the best season yet.
And so it begins.
We got out to the river at sunrise. It was clear that winter hasn’t given up. I shotgunned some McDonald’s coffee to warm-up and clumsily tied some knots with numb fingers. I threaded a nightcrawler onto a #6 hook as the sun back-lit the bare tree tops.
Right now the Clinton River is swift and angry. In just a few weeks the water will recede to about half of it’s current volume. The suckers take refuge in the swirling pools behind brush and rock piles that will be visible by the middle of April.
The tactic is to stick the bait to the bottom in these little whirlpools. And wait for a bite. This makes sucker fishing a really social event. Zeus joins me, Uncle Mike, John and Branden as we smoke cigars and joke around. Even though we’ve just spent months on the ice chasing panfish together, it always seems like we haven’t been fishing in years.
The fishing was slow but we still managed to land three decent suckers. Nearby steelhead fisherman had some success floating spawn under a bobber and casting stonefly nymphs with 6 and 7 weight fly rods. Even one walleye was netted down river from us on a pink yarn fly.