I'm not sure how many times I can say it before it gets old, but I'm not nearly active enough on this site. For those of you who are also on facebook, you probably saw a lot of these pictures in the Roughfish group months ago. But, since this is a much more appropriate setting to tell stories and dump pictures long term, I'll finally recap the epic 7-8 week event that was the 2018 Sucker run.
I think I uploaded all of these pics to the site a couple months ago, but my lazy arse is just now getting around to making a full write up. Also, for the sake of protecting the amazing fishery that I have the opportunity to take part in frequently, I won't be naming any specific locations. What I will say, though, is that all of these fish were caught in April and May on a handful of Great Lakes tributaries. We'll leave it at that. Any active/reputable members of the community who are curious to learn more are welcome to PM me, I just don't want some internet-crawling bow"fisherman" or spear chucker to learn the whereabouts of these amazing animals.
Without any more boring introductory info, let's get right to it!
This Spring I finally decided to dive headfirst into what may well be the best lake-run Sucker fishery in the world. Top five without a doubt. Actually, no, top three without a doubt. I've been fishing this part of the Great Lakes for my entire life, and I've been fishing the same tributaries for Fall Trout and Salmon for a few years now. I never knew of the beasts that ascended these streams in the Spring months until I started talking with fellow member J Dunfee about the fishery several years ago. Even then, for some reason I put off investigating the Spring run with full effort until this year. Part of the reason why being that 2016 and 2017 were relatively windless Springs, and I was more focused on the massive Lake Char roaming out in the open waters of the lake than any other species. This Spring included no lack of gale-force winds that kept me off the lake many days, and so I had much more time to explore the streams. As much as I love my Char fishing, I'm honestly pretty grateful that mother nature pushed me towards tributary fishing this April and May, as the Sucker fishery that I quickly stumbled upon was nothing less than world class.
The month of April marked the beginning of the this year's Sucker run for me. White Suckers had started trickling in around mid-late March, but they weren't in thick until mid-late April. Silver Redhorse had also started coming in around early April and were plentiful by the end of the month. Around the last week of the month, Goldens and especially Shortheads were present in decent numbers as well.
I began my tributary fishing the second Saturday in April, and if memory serves me correctly, it was nothing but big Silvers in harsh weather that weekend. I remember wandering around a couple different access spots that first day, finding nothing but yellow-rope Salmonid purists crowding around handfuls of little stocked Trout. Then, at my last stop for the day, I walk down to the creek to find it inundated with large, dark figures cruising along the bottom of the stained, green water. Dozens of Silvers all piled up together in a deeper run, and not another soul in sight. Jackpot. Unfortunately, the water was rather cold that day, with air temps in the 30's and wind up to 40 some mph. Those fish were nothing short of sluggish and it took some real work just to get a few of them to eat. But, the fish I did catch were all brutes, not one going under 20 inches. While that day wasn't overly productive, just seeing all of those fish in a single run, and catching a few Silvers whose average size would be considered a trophy anywhere else, was enough to hook me on the Spring Sucker fishery.
The third weekend of April was spent chasing those same Silvers, along with several White Suckers and even Steelhead that showed up to the party. This time around the weather and conditions were considerably more pleasant and conducive to the Sucker bite. I also landed my personal best Silver that weekend, which taped out at 28 inches and was somewhere in the 9-11 pound range. It was one heck of a fight on 8lb line and he ran around for a good ten minutes before I landed him. Believe it or not, there were probably a good 10-15 fish larger than that one in the same pool. Some of those studs had to be up around 15 pounds, but of course they were super wary any time my bait or rig got near them.
I spent the fourth and final weekend of the month running around a couple different streams with J Dunfee. We also briefly met up with a couple other local Roughfish guys that aren't too active on the site either. That was probably one of the most enjoyable weekends on the water I've ever had and I'd likely call it the overall peak of the run, with every species being present in decent to exceptionally high numbers. For some reason, the Silvers just didn't like me too much that weekend, and I only caught one or two in the two days we were fishing. Dunfee, on the other hand, was pulling them out left and right! Other than those tank anisurums, we each caught numerous White Suckers and Golden Redhorse. I even managed to finally get my lifer Shorthead that Saturday, followed by a couple more the next morning. The story behind my lifer Shorthead is pretty comical, too. I was fishing to a big pod of uncooperative Silvers at the tail of run when my line just took off. Who knows what I was doing, but I wasn't paying attention at the time. Thanks to that, the slack line had wrapped itself around the reel before the fish started to run, and so the impact of that feisty fish taking off without a functional drag startled me so much that I stumbled back, tripped on a rock, and came within less than an inch of flooding my chest waders in 50 some degree water. My pack and all of my gear was thoroughly soaked, but at least I managed to stay dry, somehow. Even after pulling myself up on to shore and getting that soaked waist pack off me, the fish was still on! I got the line untangled and fought that guy the rest of the way in. I was expecting a decent Silver since they were the only species I saw in the run, but to my surprise it was a solid Shorthead, and my first one ever! After catching a couple more the next morning as well, they've quickly become one of my favorite Redhorse species. Pound for pound they may well be the hardest fighting Sucker I've ever caught, and I haven't encountered any other species that will actually "flex" their body while being held. Such a cool species. Not that any of the Redhorse aren't! Aside from that Shorthead fiasco, the other fish I distinctly remember from that Saturday was a tank Silver that Dunfee caught after dark. I think that bad boy was 27" and 8-10 pounds if I'm right. It was so fat it looked like a balloon ready to pop!
A lot of great fish were landed in May, but the species lineup definitely started to change around the beginning of the month. White Suckers stuck around in decent numbers until mid May, but many of them started to drop back to the big pond after April. Quillbacks had started to appear around the end of April and stuck around until the middle of May. Silvers dumped most of their eggs around the beginning of the month and then quickly headed back to the lake after that. By mid May, they were all but gone from the tribs that I frequent most often. Shortheads also started to clear out around early May, but I found more Shorties than Silvers by mid May. Thankfully, Goldens pretty much stuck around until the middle to end of the month. Black Redhorse didn't even show up in numbers until early May, they then stuck around until the end of the month, too.
The first day I hit the tribs again in May was a rushed Sunday morning when I only had a couple hours to fish. That said, I made a pretty eventful day out of little fishing time! I only landed a few fish that day but they included a large, quality Shorthead, my lifer Black Redhorse, and my lifer Quillback. I've been trying to catch my lifer Quillback for years, and after getting rejected by countless fish that I threw so many perfect offerings at, this fish decided to go against all logic and eat a ball of crawlers hooked on a size 2 circle hook right in front of me. As if to say "F everything you thought you knew about our species". But hey, I won't complain! I was just happy to have finally landed one of the species that's been taunting me forever.
The weather turned out to be total crap the second weekend of the month, but the third weekend couldn't have been much nicer. I caught many Goldens that Saturday, and had several large White Suckers as well as my PB Black Redhorse show up to play as well. In addition to all of the Sucker action, I caught Steelhead, Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, and River Chubs throughout the morning and afternoon as well. Couldn't have asked for a much better day of mixed bag fishing.
Finally, the run had winded down by the last weekend of May. The vast majority of the Suckers had left my favorite trib, with just a few Quillbacks and a Redhorse or two remaining in the places I checked. My second favorite stream still had a decent amount of fish left, but they proved next to impossible to catch thanks to extremely low/clear water and warm temps. I mainly fished for lake-run Smallmouth that day instead, though I did manage to coax one final Black Redhorse to eat that Sunday, and that fish turned out to be my last lake-run Sucker of 2018.
Man, I really wish I would've gotten involved with this fishery sooner. Pristine, beautiful streams loaded with dozens of hungry, native Suckers and Redhorse in every pool, and not another person around all day. I've always loved the Sucker family, but after experiencing the Great Lakes Spring run in all its glory, I'd say they're probably tied for my favorite group of fish now. The Fall Trout and Salmon fishing is just about to begin on those same streams, but I can't help but count down the days until those big, gorgeous Catostomids begin to run upstream again next year. I may not have caught insane numbers of fish this Spring, but my technique is rapidly improving, and I'm pretty content with the fish I did catch for this being my first real migratory Sucker experience.
If anyone made it this far, I hope I didn't rant for too long about any given day or fish. Sorry if I missed any typos, too. Maybe I'll see some of you on the same streams sometime in the future! Tight lines, everyone.