littlelogo.gif (2160 bytes)

Ontario Fishing Network
Volume 5,  Issue 4 -  April 2005

Suckers Don't Suck
By: Chris Van Vliet

Suckers are right up there with Carp and Rock Bass as one of those "nuisance fish" that is shunned by most anglers. All too often on the riverbanks you'll hear, "Oh it's just a sucker" after a Steelheader's float disappears and their rod starts to buckle over. Suckers may not put on the same aerial display as a Steelhead or be as pleasing to the eye with their bland colouring, but Suckers aren't all bad, in fact when targeted with light gear they can make for quite the exciting day.

During the warmer months of the year, Suckers can be difficult to find as they spread out among larger lakes and tend to forage very close to the bottom. In the spring however, Suckers go on their spawning run up tributary rivers and creeks making them easy to target. Their run usually begins in March; just after the first Steelhead runs are already underway, and they can hold there until as late as mid-June.

Suckers teem into the rivers in huge numbers, in fact they can get so thick in some areas that their bunched up bodies can often be mistaken as the dark bottom of a pool. This is a great opportunity to take out young anglers, or those new to the sport as Suckers have a decent average size in comparison to most panfish and when in the skinny water they become an easy and willing target.

Breaking it Down
The Catostomidae or Sucker family is closely related to the minnow family. In Ontario the most common specie are White Suckers, although Redhorse Suckers can also be found in good numbers in some regions. They are fairly unmistakable in appearance as they have a distinctive elongated body with a fleshy under turned mouth that is used for bottom feeding. White Suckers average about 14-18 inches in length and reach sexual maturity between five to nine years old at which time they enter rivers and creeks on their spring spawning runs.

There is no great science to finding Suckers in the springtime, as they seem to predictably hold in slow moving deep pools, which allow them to expend the least amount of energy. Suckers stage these runs into rivers and creeks with the same spawning intentions as Steelhead have in the spring and Salmon in the fall. Although Suckers spend most of their time resting in slow moving pools, it is not uncommon to see a small group in shallow, faster running water while actual spawning is occurring.

One great thing about Suckers is that they always seem to travel together in large groups. It is very uncommon to see one lone Sucker holding by itself in a pool. With this is mind, once you find a pool that is holding a pod of Suckers; you might as well park yourself there, because you'll be in for a successful day.

Suckering the Suckers
The approach is quite simple and doesn't require the extravagant and often expensive equipment and set-up that most river fishing does. The most commonly used baits are natural presentations like worms or roe bags. Other traditional "trout tactics" like flies and egg imitations will work as well. These can be presented underneath a float or can be fished on bottom with the help of an egg sinker.

I have also caught my fair share of suckers on micro grubs or tubes worked very slowly through a pool. Although colour does not seem to be a huge issue, when it comes to plastic baits, natural colours like white or black seem to work the best. The bottom line is Suckers are not a particularly finicky fish, so coaxing them into biting is usually not very difficult.

Remember these fish are in the creeks to spawn, so many of the female fish that you catch will have eggs dropping out of them. Bring along a Ziploc bag and collect some of these small eggs, which can later be tied into roe bags as a fresh bait not only for Suckers but also an effective variation for Steelhead.

Suckers are not as wary as some other species so hook size and line diameter are not overly critical. A 6'6" Medium-action spinning rod spooled with 6lb test monofilament is a perfect combo to target spring-run Suckers. However, sizing down your equipment to ultra-light status, with a 5'6" or 5'0" Ultra-Light-action rod and 2 or 4lb test line can really intensify the fight of these glorified minnows.

Suckers with definitely surprise any angler that is willing to scale down their gear to target them. An afternoon of catching 30-50 fish is not out of the norm and when you hook into a larger fish it is not uncommon to see it go on long, fast runs and to jump out of the water, traits which is usually the trademark of a Steelhead. Suckers may not be the nicest looking fish, actually in all honesty they aren't nice looking at all, but they can make for an action packed day and are a great way to wipe away the winter blahs.

An Introduction to Springtime Crappies
Breaking Out the Boat for Spring
Suckers Don't SUCK!

Enter Our Contest (NEW!)
Fishing Lodge Classifieds
Downloadable Lodge Guide
Fishing Photo Gallery
Fishing Cartoon
Upload your Fishing Pictures
Total Tackle Box - Tackle Search Engine

Our Fishing Video Site is up and running.
If you have hi-speed internet access click here to see some great short fishing video clips

Archived Articles Here

Back to the Ontario Fishing Network