Friday, 02 April 2021 15:06

COLUMN: Gigging suckers

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COLUMN: Gigging suckers J.A. Bolton

Now to set y'all straight, this here story is not about certain people who seem to fall for anything, no siree. This story is my recollection of one of my experiences while gigging blue-fin suckers in local creeks.

A little knowledge of the blue-fin sucker species should be told here so some of you can better appreciate this here story.

You see, just about every river system in America is packed with some type of carp or sucker, which are all considered a non-game fish. They are mostly bottom feeders but have been known to root up other types of fish beds. They have a small mouth which looks like it’s just puckered up enough to kiss you. There are several varieties of suckers which include the small Red Horse and a much larger one called the Blue-fin which can reach 20 pounds or more. They are a good tasting fish but the flesh is a bit boney. Some people eat them by grinding bones and all and making them into fish patties.

In the spring of the year, about the time the dogwoods start blooming, the suckers make their annual run up the smaller feeder creeks to lay their eggs. This is the time you sharpen your gig and start wading the creeks at night. The reason you go at night is so you can spot them better and they won’t run from you.

 Back in the day you didn’t need no license, all you needed was a strong light, a pair of tennis shoes, a tow sack, and a three- or four-prong gig on the end of a six- or eight-foot pole.

The creek water needs to be clear when you go gigging. If’n it has rained the water will be stirred up and you can’t see them.

The way my friends and I worked this thing was you had to wade up the creek so any mud you stirred up would flow behind you. We would put in at a bridge down the creek and have another truck parked at an upper bridge to bring us back in.

Now this creek wading at night won’t for the faint of heart, no siree. Usually the water would be cold and could be 6 inches to several feet deep. Sometimes the logs and creek banks would hold a snake or two, and when something you didn’t see swam between your legs, it was exciting to say the least.

Some of our favorite places to gig were on Cartledge Creek and Big Mountain Creek around the Pothole, as people call it today. Why, we have waded both creeks some nights and come out with several tow sacks of Bluefin.

Won’t too safe to go by yourself — carrying a light, a gig, a sack of fish and trying to gig at the same time ain’t no fun. Too much like work, don’t you know?

As I recollect, late one spring evening, several of us neighborhood boys decided to go a sucker gigging over on Cartledge Creek right below Cartledge Creek Church. We had planned to wade up the creek to the bridge on Prison Camp Road — a distance of less than a mile, as the creek flowed.

A young guy who had just moved into the neighborhood wanted to go gigging also. To tell you the truth, this guy didn’t seem to be much of an outdoor person but he was willing to tote the tow sack and carry the fish, so why not let him go.

Well, we got the trucks parked and started wading up the creek. About half way up the creek we got into them suckers big time. They were everywhere. Didn’t take long and our hundred-pound tow sack was full. Our new sack man had his job cut out for him. It was all he could do pulling them suckers up the creek; following us with our shining lights.

We had made it just about to the upper bridge when our lights suddenly spotted a rather large snake headed down the creek right for us.  Y'all have read in the Bible about how the Apostle Peter walked on water until he lost his faith and took his eyes off of Jesus. Well folks, he didn’t have nothin’ on us boys that night for we had the faith, hallelujah. Why, it only took us about three steps on the top of the water and all of us except our sack man had cleared the creek.

After we got our wits back, we shined our lights back out to the middle of the creek. There we spotted our sack man — who didn’t have a light — shaking like a tree in a windstorm and he was as white as a ghost, don’t you know. The only good thing about this was he had kept a death grip on our sack of fish and wouldn’t let go till we carried him to the truck. 

To my knowledge, that young man never wanted to go sucker gigging again, no siree. It seemed every time we’d  ask him to go, he always came up with some type of excuse.

Well folks, I got to close this here story out. But come next spring, ‘bout time the dogwoods start blooming, I’ll be a needing a good sack man, any volunteers?

J.A. Bolton is author of “Just Passing Time,” co-author of “Just Passing Time Together,” and just released his new book “Southern Fried: Down-Home Stories,” all of which can be purchased on Amazon. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Last modified on Friday, 02 April 2021 15:07