April 2, 2010


Uttering the word whiteys means one of two things to me, and no, one of them is not a slur against the Caucasian. The first are sliders, steamed onion and beef heaven topped with a slice of pepper jack on a bun. Many folks will trash the slider, but the JalapeƱo Cheeseburger from White Castle is the only way to satisfy "the crave". The other, the white sucker, Catostomus commersoni, is likely the cheapest, most abundant source of protein up in the Great White North.

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There's no better fishing than the Spring sucker run. Not only is it the first major run of fish that is legally open to angling here in Minnesota, but it is also typically one of the first outings of the year for many flyrodders who aren't afforded an open Spring trout fishery in their neck of the woods. Coupled with oft gorgeous weather and fish stacked like cord wood, the Spring run is an angler's delight.

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The most difficult aspect of fishing for suckers during their spawning run, is the art of not foul-hooking them. Congregated fish can present a challenge, and typically it can be harder to not foul hook a fish than to catch one. A couple of tips: I use a small fly with a small hook gape, typically a size 10 or 12 and smaller. I also tend to lightly jig and float my fly lightly, keeping it suspended in the water column. In the fast current, the tension of the fly line, or even leader, in the water can actually set the hook into the flesh of a fish. I try to keep my fly from hanging up on the sides and fins of fish and yet try to manage and detect a strike. It's like a fine dancing act, a ballet of sorts.

A fly is likely the most effective means of catching a white sucker and one of the most enjoyable. These are strong fish and can put up a vigorous fight, especially in heavy current. It has been a while since a fish of their size had put such a bend in my rod, right down to the butt section. They are like trying to land a torpedo, as their fins act as rudders and effectively keep them down low in the heavy current. Regardless of the technique you use, fishing for Spring suckers is one of the highlights of the year. It's been a long time since my arm was tired from catching fish.