Gigging for Suckers, Southwest Missouri’s Little Known Outdoor Activity

It was a frigid cold January night and my father-in-law convinced me to accompany him on a quest for the holy grail of suckers.  Armed with a long stick that looked more like a smaller version of Poseidon’s spear, he was determined.  I am always up for an adventure and was definitely game for catching fish by plunging a spear into the water!  Although I secretly wandered if this quest was something similar to a “snipe hunt” and the real sucker was me.

Believe it or not, suckers do exist, although there is nothing special about them.  Gigging for suckers originated in Southwest Missouri; today it’s not nearly as popular.  Suckers are a relatively small, bony fish that are nearly impossible to cook and eat by the novice.  You also have to endure some harsh winter elements just to catch them.  However, as one suckerette might put it, gigging for suckers is all about the hunt.

The reason you gig for suckers in the middle of the night in January is because this is when the creeks and rivers are most clear.  It’s also the Missouri government mandated gigging season.  Suckers come out at night and sleep in large vulnerable packs, making them far too easy to catch.  The most dedicated suckerette will weld a guard rail around his jon boat and attach industrial spot lights pointing down into the water, illuminating all of the helpless victims.  My first time gigging was on one of these well-equipped jon boats.

By the time our boat came upon the first school of suckers, it was late and I was too cold to even care, it was around 15 degrees after all.  I was thinking this silly fish is so unimportant that the only season it is granted is in the dead of winter.  However, amid my debbie downer syndrome, with the first throw of the spear, we pulled one in.  Let me tell you, the excitement and adrenaline you feel while holding this stick with a flopping fish on the end is beyond explanation!  Within the first hour we were spearing and pulling in fish of biblical proportions.  When the night came to an end we had buckets of them.  For us, it was only appropriate to clank a drink in a ceremonial manner to christen our catch.

Unfortunately our night of entertainment had to be at the expense of the suckers’ pain and suffering.  This is a sport definitely unsanctioned by PETA.  We did attempt to cook the fish the following day so it wasn’t completely in vain.  Cooking suckers is an art; we failed miserably and wound up eating Captain D’s instead.  Gigging for suckers was one for the record books and is definitely something everyone should try.

By: Dave Darr


Post a Comment