Sucker Gigging in Califon New Jersey in the Winter is a very special occasion that my buddies and myself enjoy, but an adventure that doesn`t happen all that often. However this past week or so, with a cold artic-air mass blowing our way, I was really watching the forecast closely. It takes a good three or four days of single-digit temperatures to form “ok” ice on the South Branch of the Raritan River in Califon……and that ice really isn`t all that thick when it`s just “ok”.
Everything was looking good and in our favor as the cold air stayed till the end of the week. So I rounded up
my friends and we headed out to the river Saturday morning. The excitement and anticipation was running high among all of us, as we decided to hit our honey-hole where we gigged those fifty suckers last Winter.
We loaded up our gigs, bats and `shine and made our way towards to ice-covered hard-water.
Roger Post, George Armstrong and Art Landon swung the axes and broke the first set of holes of the day.
Then as usual, we all started bustin` on each other……… as we were all excited to be sucker gigging!
Now don`t ask me why…… but I don`t like to wear gloves when I gig suckers. Just a strange thing that I`ve always done. So I cleared the loose ice in the hole and got ready to gig!
The “Drivers” got ready to make the first drive of the day. Armed with baseball bats, axe handles and a shale bar, they lined up and began to pound the ice as they walked towards the Giggers. The anticipation was rising! Who would see the first sucker or group come through?
Then BAM! Ron Ireland flipped one out on the ice!
As the drivers got closer, I yelled, “Watch for leaves boys” – which basically means the suckers are swimmin` towards you when you see debris floating by…………… but nothing. Not another sucker on that drive.
We were shocked…… This was our honey-hole…….how could it be?
Two more drives and still nothing….. We where very puzzled as to why there weren`t any suckers here……
Eric Hildebrandt blamed it on Northern Pike, whereas George Armstrong and Art Landon others felt it had something to do with the various substances that the roads were being treated with, saying it washes into the river. Regardless of what the reason was, there weren`t any fish and It was time to get out of here.
So we decided to give a go in front of George Armstrong`s up in Vernoy.
The ice was much thinner at this spot. So thin that when the boys cut the holes, water came up on the ice fairly quickly as we set up the giggers. The drivers went up-river from us and it was only a matter of minutes and suckers started hitting the ice!
Ron Ireland and veteran sucker gigger, Pete Samski talk about where to gig next!
Eric Hildebrandt flips a nice sucker on the ice down river!
George Armstrong, Eric Hildebrandt and Jimmy Kilhullen watch and smile asKen Beam flips a nice sucker on the ice!
Notice how close Pete Samski is the the edge of the ice as he drives suckers!
His bat was actually hitting the water from where he stood!
Eric Hildebrandt, the co-owner of Shannon`s Fly & Tackle Shop in Califon, flips a nice sucker on the ice! Eric`s sucker gigging method is to lay flat on the ice!
*Here is the Go PRO Sucker Gigging Video I shot that day.
*There is some cussin`/swearin` so if you have little kids, don`t let them watch it!
I think you`ll really enjoy this;
Art Landon soaked the suckers in a Brine for a few hours, then they went in his smoker for almost
seven hours. Let me tell you what, they are absolutely delicious!
Last year after we gigged suckers, my girlfriend encouraged me to write a story for a outdoors sporting
magazine. So I gave it a shot and submitted the story to Fur-Fish-Game Magazine. Well low and behold,
the magazine actually published it in the December 2014 issue! I was pretty darn proud to have something that I wrote published in a National publication.
Yea…… it turned out to be a really great day. A great day Sucker Gigging with a great bunch of hell-raisin` guys…..
The kind of day that I wouldn`t trade for anything.