ANOTHER COARSE FISH—THE SUCKER
By JONAS Y. DAUB
Along about this time of year the sporting magazines and others devote no small amount of space to the ways and means of taking the gamey trout and, also, on the general overhauling of the tackle suitable for their capture. This note is not, however, on the subject of how to take the trout rather, a coarse fish — the sucker. Many of the clan will, beyond a doubt, turn up their noses in disgust at the mere mention of so lowly a fish; putting them in the same class as the much despised carp. But to those who feel that they cannot wait any longer, but that they must go a-stream and throw off the fishing energy accumulated during the past inactive winter months or,' in plain words the real dyed-in-the-wool angler, this note is intended. Why? Because a real fishing "crank" will not hesitate to cast his lure to game or common fish, just as long as the fish in question takes the proffered bait. It is needless to state at this time that the spring-run sucker surely does not hesitate in taking any lure cast well with-in his "run." The great majority of the anglers have to be contented with fishing for coarse fish at times, so this note will find favor with them, also.
Most of us are so situated that we must travel miles and miles before we reach our favorite trouting waters, so we also turn our attention to the local streams when the spring run is on. The law, also, in many cases is still on the game fish so we still have another excuse to offer when we make these early spring tramps a-stream in search of this cold water biter. The first requirement to good sport with these fish is the .weather. The best fishing is usually from 2 o'clock till 5 o'clock on these warm, sunshiny days. After the water warms up a little, say at the end of March, good sport can be had all afternoon and evening. The best time is usually when the water is fairly clear; the wind from the south or southwest; and, when the sun is hidden at times by the clouds. Angling as a whole is mighty poor when the wind is from the north or northwest as it brings, more often then not. snow squalls or rain.
The best places to try your hand at angling for this fish is where the stream makes a bend, especially where there is a deep pool washed out by the ever washing, eroding effects brought about by the current. At such places there are deep channels found at times, quite visible from the shore, which are, to say the least, the places you should strive to place your lure. These pools or channels are visible, showing up darker than the surrounding comparatively, shallow waters.
The suckers at this time, the spring spawning migration, are ever on the move; always following up-stream, so you can expect a fast and furious sport as long as the school is passing you. Sometimes they start to bite only after fishing several hours and, after a half hour's sport, will leave off biting just as suddenly as they commenced. A wise angler can then follow up the fish or school with good results, but the novice had better stay where he is as there is always the likelihood of another school passing or the first one returning.
An angler must have a good idea as to the stream-bed formations before he can hope for success in the following-up process. These "sucker beds" are always located on slightly silt covered bottoms, in fairly deep water; especially, if it is located at the bottom of a stretch of "fast" water. When a channel is discovered it will give up its quota of suckers year after year or, at least until the bed of the stream in question is changed by the winter floods. Sometimes these beds are discovered by accident while at others—well, two-bits in the hands of a" denuded boy will bring forth a lot of talk as to what he is "feelin1 " with his tootsies in that particular stretch of water. If the stream where you fish makes a bend below a stretch of fast water you surely are in luck, for it is • here that the suckers congregate before starting on their last lap of rough going on their way to the spawning grounds.
These sucker runs or migrations put one in mind of the salmon "runs", occurring at this time of the year through-out the western and northwestern part of the Pacific states and Canada. But. where the sucker differs from the salmon lies in the fact that they, the suckers, do not die after spawning and, that they also take bait when they are on their, 2 spawning run, which is not true of the Pacific-"l salmon which does not eat anything after leaving salt water.
At this time of the year (spring) the great majority of the suckers caught fall to the hook and line anglers, more so than at any other time; only approached by the fall feeding period which occurs after the first frosts have chilled the water. It is our belief that the sucker bites through-out the entire winter, only letting up during a real cold snap of weather. Without a doubt, an angler could go a-stream on any warm, sunshiney day and catch a nice bag of fish; especially a day following a warm rain. Last season we caught them, and this in snow water, in the early part of January, following the closing of the fall hunting period. The only out-standing _fact of this winter fishing was that they required more time in taking the bait than what they require after the water gets warmed up a little by the warm spring sun. This fact alone accounting, perhaps, why not more of them are caught at this period of inactivity.
The sucker, as his name pertains, is naturally a slow biting fish; although at times, one will take the lure in a way which would do credit to a game fish. They have a very small mouth which necessitates the use of a very. The most sportive way of taking the spring-run sucker is to use a fly rod or light bait rod; fishing much in the same manner as is employed in worming for trout, casting the lure out into the current and letting it float around as it will until the slight tapping bite warns us that a fish is at our hook. The sucker takes a lure much in the same manner as does the gamy channel bass of the big blue shiney, picking, ever picking until he can get the bait into his mouth, when he will at times surprise the angler in giving a real strike and run. When the water is neither too cold nor too warm, the sucker sometimes gives forth a fight (under water, of course) that equals the trout caught in the early, snow water fishing period, right after the law is off.
When a light fly or bait rod is employed it is best to use only a single hook. A small dipsey sinker, just heavy enough to hold the bottom, is tied about six or eight inches above the hook. This light lead, as you perhaps know, is given the fish so that he may give forth everything in the way of a fight, which is in him. When using this rig a lot of trouble may be experienced in trying to get the hook to the desired spot. The best way is :o strip off some line and, throwing the baited hook out, much in the manner of operating the old, familiar hand-line. It also follows that care must be exercised in reeling in, for a fly rod or a light bait rod was not designed for such strenuous work.
A bait casting rod may also be used and. by attaching two or more hooks, doubles may sometimes be caught. The bait caster is brought into play where the stream is too wide to bring the fly or bait rod into play. When using a bait caster, the lead should be so attached that when the line is cast out, allowing the water to play at right angles against it. it will allow the several baited hooks to ride side by side, and not trailing each other. The sport in this style of angling lies not in the casting out of the baited hook rather, after the hook is taken. This "kink" is the writer's pet rigging when using the bait casting rod in the taking of this fish. Nothing whatever is gained by casting down stream and allowing the hooks to trail each other, since the fish feed up-stream and not across current, and to score "doubles" with any degree of regularity with any other styled rigging is scarcely possible, excepting with the one described.
The common sucker, unlike other fish, is not a nest spawning one; fancying the silt covered bottoms over which there is a slight flowing current. Should this condition found at the base of a slow, shallowy flow stretch of water the condition will be often ideal for spawning purposes.
The line for this style of fishing should be an oiled silk or water-proof silk, testing not more than twelve pounds. One testing six pounds and made by the Kingfisher people— the bait caster—is a dandy one for sucker fishing. This line registers in a highly magnified manner all the "nibbles" of this nimble feeder.
To those of the clan who fish to also satisfy the inner-man, let me say that the sucker needs not take a back seat when it comes to placing them in the fry pan, being preferred to some of those which sport their names under the heading: game fish. A useful "kink" in frying the sucker is to make 54-inch cuts all along the ribs down to the backbone; these cuts allowing all the small bones to fry out, seemingly to disappear as if by magic. Try it, and see!
The bait, being worms, are easily obtained as this is also garden digging time. The best ones are those small red fellows and not those big. black, night walker snakes used to entice the lowly but delicious catfish into the pan At this season of the year that old mud rooter—the carp—will also take this bait: while at times when least expected, a real old fighter (bass) will give us a bit of real fish
Hunter-Trader-Trapper. October: 1921,
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