Monday, March 25, 2019

Sucker fishing

I went sucker fishing yesterday.

I did not catch anything.

The first fourteen seconds are dead time. You might want to turn down the sound.

The video shown above shows how densely packed the suckers can become. This was filmed on Michigan's Grand River, probably at a dam spillway. Each fish is in the 3-5 pound range. That is a lot of protein.

Folks joke that you can catch them in your backyard with a scoop shovel if you leave the hose running anytime in April.

I am new to sucker fishing. Some videos show snow on the ground. Some chat boards talk about catching them near the middle of May.

One of the factors that causes the dispersion is that different species of suckers have peak spawn at different water temperatures.

Shorthead Redhorse suckers have peak spawning runs when the water temp is in the mid-forties, White suckers when the water temp is about fifty while Greater and River Redhorse suckers spawn when the water is closer to seventy degrees F.

Ultimately I want to can some suckers.

The picture in my head is to cut them into steaks or darnes. I want to pack them into pint jars, cover with Bloody Mary mix (sans vodka), add 2 grams of Prague #1 Pink salt and pressure can.

The pink salt will be added because Botulism freaks me out and the USDA ruled that up to 500ppm of Sodium Nitrite is allowable in cured fish. 2 grams of Prague/450 grams of contents should give me about 300ppm if my calculations are correct. Prague #1 is 6.25% Sodium Nitrite.

But first I have to catch some suckers.


  1. Have you looked at the Ball canning web page for fish?

    They talk about brining and in the comments one person adds some liquid smoke to the brine. That sounds like a tasty addition. Wonder what a mustard sauce would taste like? Happy canning!

  2. Are they not contaminated?

    I assume that is a salmon steak, too.

    1. That is a salmon steak. There is a dearth of pictures of sucker steaks on the internet.

      The Kalamazoo drainage is contaminated with PCB and has blanket do-not-eat advisories. The Grand drainage has advisories, women who are of reproductive age are to limit their consumption to one serving a month.

      A scientist at the Michigan DNR told me that rivers with heavy sediment loads tended to clean more quickly. "Clean" is the wrong term. They cover contaminated materials with overburden walling it off from the larger ecology. That mechanism is leaky with mercury because it forms methyl-merc in anaerobic conditions and gets out.

      Suckers are bottom feeders but don't live as long as catfish or carp. Short-lived is good from a contamination standpoint. Bottom feeder is bad.

      I probably eat one tuna fish submarine sandwich a month. I think I will be OK.

  3. ERJ, I wish you luck with your endeavor. Last century we harvested many suckers from the Port Huron area when they overwhelmed the smelt run in the creek we were "dipping".

    I did not try canning them. I smoked most, as other means of preparation were unpalatable. Although the suckers were palatable, they were the worst smoked fish I ever tasted.

    They are great fun to catch on hook and line, but I now return them to the water in favor of other eating fish. If memory serves me, there might be a good walleye run below the dam in Lansing. The timing would be good right now. Those I would eat, occasionally. Peace.


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