Sucker Gigging! You`ve probably never ever even heard of it right? Well allow me to enlighten you a bit about this Winter-time tradition that takes place in Califon New Jersey. Unlike gigging suckers in Missouri, which is done from a boat, the sucker gigging that we do only takes place on the ice. Compared to the Ozark tradition, whereas they actually use a type of spear to “gig” the suckers out west, we use actual home-made hooks to gig our suckers here in Califon. While the spearing of fish is illegal in the state of New Jersey, hooking or gigging through the ice is not.
Sucker gigging has been done for decades in Califon. Heck I recall as a little boy, my Dad picking me up from Sunday school and telling me that “They`re gigging up at Wise`s right now” ……”So when we get home, change your clothes and we`ll go back down to the river” – And I`ll tell you, I was so excited, I couldn`t get out of my Sunday School clothes fast enough because I would at least get to “drive” the suckers(at this age I was too young to gig!) and that was a big deal for me to do.
So last Sunday was New Year`s Eve and I had been getting a few text messages throughout the week from my buddies saying that the ice ought to be safe enough by the weekend and some asking if we were going gigging this coming Saturday or Sunday. See what was interesting was the fact that we had ice this early in season. As a matter of fact, I don`t recall in recent years ever having started in December. Generally, we would get a cold snap in January or February that would lock up the river for at least a few days. But everything looked like a “go” so we decided to meet Sunday at 9am at Wise`s Pond.
We had a couple of “New-be” Giggers join up with us for their first time. My old Air Force buddy Bob Meyer whom I reconnected with, thanks to Facebook, after not seeing since basic training…..31 years ago! Jeff Van Nest another good friend whom I reconnected with after not seeing him since the late eighties. I was really happy that these two guys could join us for some fun on the ice.
And speaking of ice, Jeff`s Brother Jon, broke the first ice of the morning with a spud bar…………. as he literally dropped the bar on the ice and we all stepped back………The ice was barely an inch thick!! I joked and said, “Well…. somebody might be takin` a dip today boys!” As cold as it had been, this didn`t even seem possible……..
This first spot and the next several proved to be absolutely fruitless……….. and none of us could believe that we weren`t finding fish. Actually what was very peculiar, was the fact that we weren`t seeing anything. Not even a sunny or rockbass. As we discussed this, we came up with a plethora of possible reasons for the lack of fish. Was it because of the sewage treatment plant in Long Valley? Or maybe all of the salt/brine used on the roads had some kind of adverse effect on the fish over the years. Perhaps the fish-eating birds i.e. Bald Eagles, merganzers and blue herons were steadily depleting the fish population. Heck someone even mentioned Northern Pike, or maybe it was a combination of all of these factors. Whatever is was, it certainly made the entire river seem dead.
After a couple hours, it was time to move. The destination was “Duckville” in Middle-Valley, right outside of Califon. This spot had almost always produced some or a lot of fish for us over the years.
We quickly cut our holes, set up and sent the drivers down-river. The moral was getting a little low at this point because of the lack of suckers. It was time to shake things up and get some fish!
Finally! A nice sucker glided slowly across my hole in the ice………….
We had finally gotten into a few fish! Jon nailed three on the next drive and Shane got a random one before the drivers even started.
The young “viking” in front of me and Jeff is Shane! Haha!
Then Bob gigged his first sucker!
So without any further ado, here`s the little Go PRO Video I shot of the day`s adventure on the ice;
Here I`m trying to get these hoodlums in line for our group picture! Haha!
“Alright……ya ready? On three say cheeeeeeese…….one, two three cheeeeeeeeeeeeese!
A good day raisin` hell on the river with a bunch of great guys….. and that`s what it`s all about.