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Sucker Gigging

Men fishing on a boat at night with the water lit up by flashlights

As our boat came around another shoal on the Eleven Point River, we were utterly in awe of the moon that seemed to be sitting on top of the water. While motoring down the river in complete darkness, the lights attached to the gigging rail often allow us to visualize what is ahead. This night, however, the moon sparkling off the water gave us plenty of light, along with a special appreciation for being outdoorsmen.

Sunset over a river on a boat used for sucker gigging

Whether you are a fisherman, hunter, or simply love the outdoors, there are times when you become amazed and overwhelmed at God's creations. I feel such an appreciation for the outdoors when experiencing moments like that night gigging. Since I was a young teenager, my love for gigging fish during the fall has grown into a passion.

In my hometown in southern Missouri, fish gigging has become an annual event enjoyed by many from September 15th to February 15th. For those who have never heard of fish gigging, let me enlighten you in hopes that you will want to try it yourself.

Boat used for Gigging

Fish gigging is a way of spearing fish rather than using a fishing pole. When gigging fish, the best times are typically after dark. Many giggers use a flat-bottomed boat equipped with a gigging rail at the front. The rail is used for resting while holding the gig, which is usually twelve to sixteen feet in length. The other primary use of the railing is for mounting multiple LED or halogen lights that shine down in the water while trying to gig fish, known as hog suckers and yellow suckers. The gig is usually made of a spear with four to six forks. It is attached to a round wooden or fiberglass pole that is used to reach fish, typically from one to eight feet deep in the water.


The flat-bottomed boat moves slowly up and down the river's current. With lights shining in the water, your eyes must be constantly focused to see suckerfish lying near the bottom of the river. Once a fish is spotted, the gig is then thrown at the fish. It may seem like an easy task to one who has never been sucker gigging. However, fish quickly move when lights shine and they sense a boat drifting above them. To successfully gig the suckers, one must be quick and learn to follow the fish before they take off.

Night Gigging for Suckerfish

Gigging is one of the most exciting activities I have performed as an outdoorsman. Being on the quiet river in the pitch-black darkness is a rush. The adrenaline of trying to catch up with fast-moving fish is another rush that keeps me returning for more throughout the season. Gigging is filled with fun and exciting action. However, the best part of gigging is the meal enjoyed afterward.


When gigging at night, the temperatures can be chilly after returning to the banks of the river. Many giggers enjoy fresh fish minutes after their harvest by cooking on the bank. Often, cookers, corn meal, oil, potatoes, and onions are brought along to enjoy a fresh, warm meal.

Cutting a Suckerfish properly

Suckerfish have several tiny bones. To properly cook them, fishermen must first fillet the fish, then score between the bones ½” to ¾” inches apart with a sharp knife or a scoring machine. All the tiny bones are cooked up by scoring, creating a filet that is easy to eat.

Suckerfish cooked to perfection on a tortilla shell

How To Cook Suckers


- Fillet fish on each side

- Score fillets every ½” to ¾” down the entire fillet

- In a separate bowl or mixer, use corn meal with salt and pepper

- In a cast iron fish cooker, heat vegetable oil to 300 to 325 degrees

- After the oil has reached the desired temperature, place ten to twelve sucker fillets in the hot oil and cook until golden brown


To form a complete meal, giggers often cook sliced potatoes and onions in the same oil.

Canned biscuits can be deep-fried in the same oil. Once the biscuits have been cooked, dip them in apple butter or cake icing for a delicious dessert.


Fries and deep fried Suckerfish