My first fish...bait for lake trout

My first fish...bait for lake trout

A year ago if someone had invited me to go sucker fishing (or even offered a $10 bill for the pleasure) the answer would have been a definitive “no”.  No, thank you, I don’t like to fish.  No, thank you, find someone else to go.  No, thank you, no thank you.

So this year, with a 365 day outdoor commitment, and the necessity to write a blog every single day…the answer to a sucker fishing invitation became, “Sure!  Count me in!”

Four of us headed out to the Sturgeon River armed with poles, nets, hooks, worms and other fishing paraphernalia:  Nancy, Don, Barry and me.  We were aiming to catch sucker or carp, also known as “bait fish”.  These are the fish which are filleted, dusted with Borax powder (don’t ask me why) and cut into small pieces and later twisted on hooks to lure the mighty lake trout from the bottom of Lake Superior. 

Every good fisherman and woman around here has a frozen supply of sucker.  When we’re eating the lake trout later on a sultry summer evening in June, we need to remember the sucker and carp who gave their lives today so that we might eat trout sprinkled with lemon pepper and perhaps slathered with tartar sauce.

Nancy fishing (look at that sand-eroding hill in the background)

Nancy fishing (look at that sand-eroding hill in the background)

Here’s what you do.  You bait your hook with a worm and toss it into the fast-moving river.  You have to be at just the right sucker hole.  In order to find the appropriate hole where the fish linger, you must know some locals.  But you also have to hope other locals aren’t at the fishing hole when you arrive. 

The worm dangles on the hook, held down by sinkers.  You keep tension on the fishing line.  If you’re alert and lucky, suddenly you’ll feel or see the end of your pole twitching.  When the pole twitches (maybe the second time?  I don’t know…never got the technique down exactly right) you pull the line up forcefully to set the hook in the fish.  Then you reel the fighting fish in toward shore, pausing occasionally and walking backward.  Once the fish has landed, someone pulls the hook from the mouth and puts the fish in a garbage bag.

Truth be told, I don’t think I’m much of a fisher-woman.  Part of me wants to cry killing these beautiful silvery creatures from the river.  Most of me loves being primarily a vegetarian.  But we do eat seafood…and to eat meat, it’s important to be aware that it doesn’t come from a supermarket.  It comes from the wild, from fast-moving rivers and deep lakes.  It comes from this land we live on.

Reflection on the river

Reflection on the river

I liked looking at the reflection on the river, the sand avalanching down the steep eroding hill, the wildflowers.  It was fun to put down the fishing pole and wander through the thickets to explore down to the bridge and back.  At near 70 degrees, the afternoon felt so warm and inviting. 

We caught nine carp and sucker and went out for dinner at a local restaurant, the Hilltop, before driving home.  Then Barry really had to go to work scaling and cleaning the fish, before applying Borax and putting in the refrigerator downstairs.

Barry hosing down the fish after scaling them

Barry hosing down the fish after scaling them

Barry said he’s going back fishing on Friday if the weather cooperates.  I’ll probably pass on the invitation this time.  There’s plenty of wild leeks and hopefully morel mushrooms waiting to be plucked!

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