One of the great things about fishing a river is you never know what you might catch. With a crawler soaking on a hook and your fishing rod propped up in a Y-stick, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether the next strike will come from a carp, catfish, sucker, bullhead, walleye, bass, panfish or even a northern pike.

During the last week, my sons and I have been walking to the small river near our home to take advantage of the “sucker run.” Very simply, the sucker run happens every spring as suckers spawn. This year the suckers seem to be running a bit earlier than normal due to the warm temps we’ve had during March and early April.

River redhorse are easy to identify with their red-colored fins.

Specifically, we’re catching river redhorse (photo above) and white suckers (below). And while I know that some people like to keep them for smoking, we let them go.

The author’s son, Elliott, with a good-size white sucker ready to be released.

The tackle needed for suckers is quite simple and inexpensive.

First off, you don’t need a high-dollar graphite rod and reel with a zillion ball bearings. We use 6-foot 6-inch medium-action fiberglass rods that I’ve used (and abused) for decades. Spinning reels should have a decent drag, but they, too, don’t have to be fancy.

Line choice is important: We spool up with 8-pound-test Berkley Trilene XT mono in Solar color. That way your high-visibility line acts as your bobber; you simply watch your line, as well as your rod tip, for strikes.

Keep it simple, stupid.

On the business end, we use a simple sliding sinker system. Any kind of weight will work, but we use bullet weights because I have a lot of them. We set the distance from the sliding sinker to the hook at about 1 foot by using a tiny split-shot. A size No. 1 hook seems about right for suckers. We bust nightcrawlers in half and ball them up on the hook.

Best spots for the sucker run are places with moderate current flowing over shallow rocks, rubble and rip-rap (see photo below). Make a 50-foot cast straight out from shore, let the current swing your line downriver until your sinker settles in a spot, then wait for a strike. Easy.

The author’s son, Luke, showing off a river redhorse with prime sucker run habitat in the background.

One more gear tip. This spring we’ve been using a new Cabela’s landing net. I bought it for my oldest son because I was always afraid he might fall in the river while fishing with his buddies. The net (below) has a long, telescopic handle (up to 96 inches!) and is perfect for landing fish of all species, even from a high riverbank. The rubber netting material prevents tangles, which means more fishing time!

A long-handled landing net makes river fishing safer and easier.

Good luck and have fun with the 2017 sucker run!

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Images by Dave Maas