Sucker on Mother’s Day

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Mother’s Day morning on the mighty Sturgeon River

Each spring, when the rivers warm up, fish swim upstream to spawn, to lay glistening baby-fish eggs in their own childhood birth grounds.

Each spring the fishermen wait for spawning season to cast their crawlers and hook and line into the rushing river and anticipate the bite of sucker fish.

Sucker is, as so many Upper Peninsula fishermen know, the prime bait utilized during those sweet summer mornings when bobbing for lake trout in the depths of Lake Superior.

So guess, my dear reader, how your blogger spent Mother’s Day morning?

You got it.  It was a sucker-on-Mother’s-Day adventure.

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Sucker fisherman through the trees as dawn breaks


Last time I joined the sucker fishing fun was 2009.  Barry and his fishing buddy, Nancy, filled the freezer with bait.  I needed an outdoor blog and wrote the following: A sucker for sucker fishing.

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Another view of Barry from atop the eroding cliff (see next photo please)

One of the reasons I chose to accompany Barry on his quest was because it felt unexpected.  As many of you know, I am trying to say “yes” to some different, unusual or life-affirming possibilities these days.

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When erosion looks beautiful at dawn

We headed to the Sturgeon River before 6 a.m., brewing some coffee and grabbing a croissant from the Holiday station.

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Log in river as the sun rises

It was a tad chilly before the sun fully rose, with temperatures hugging about 45 degrees. (7.2 C.) I had dressed in long underwear, long-sleeve shirt, hooded sweatshirt, warm fleece jacket, knit hat and mittens.

That seemed to do the job.

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Patterns in the sand along the shoreline of the river

Nature’s gift is that she so often invigorates.  She also provides so much to see and do. If one is a little chilly, one can climb a cliff.  Watch crows and ravens and kingfishers.  Startle to fish jumping out of the river creating concentric circles.

Delight to four sand hill crane winging overhead, barking their unique crane-songs.

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The nearby grave of a cat named Cat-A-Purr. (Two more animal graves overlooked the river.)

I did not fish.

That would have involved buying a fishing license, and that seemed too expensive given the fact I might not fish again all year.

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The fisherman fishes.

Barry was not fishing for sucker bait today. He still has enough in the freezer from last year.  Instead, he wanted six fish to make Pickled Suckers.

He has a few steadfast and hearty friends & family who enjoy Pickled Sucker.  (I will type the recipe out for you at the end of this post, if any of you come across any of these finned creatures.)

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The wife sits in the sun in silhouette.

It really was a lovely Mother’s Day.

Taking pictures to show you made it interesting.

The sun sparkling on the river felt like a gift of diamonds.

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A sucker flops up to shore, somersaulting as he comes.

About an hour and a half passed until he caught six suckers.

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The sucker which will soon become “Pickled Sucker”


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Removing the hook from the sucker’s lips

When 8:30 rolled around we traveled back east toward our home in Aura. Later in the day I would talk to my mom, Barry’s mom and both kids.

It felt like a very special Mother’s Day, enriched by spending a couple hours on the river, watching my husband do something he loves.

And doing something I love–another unexpected venture into nature’s bounty.

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Later at home, filleting the sucker in preparation for the recipe

Pickled Sucker, Herring or Northern Pike

Brine – 6 cups water, 1 cup pickling salt.  Add 1  1/2 pounds fish chunks and cover in glass bowl.  Refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse in cold water.  Place in clean glass bowl and cover with white vinegar for 12 hours.

Rinse fish in cold water and drain.  Place in glass jars and over with cooked room temperature brine consisting of:

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup white vinegar

Couple small onions, sliced

1 t. pickling spices

Cook the above brine by bringing to a boil and then simmering for 15 minutes.  Stir well after cooling to room temp and pour over fish in jars.  Refrigerate jars for five days before using. Shake jars at least once during that time.  Will keep for six to eight weeks if refrigerated.  (This recipe can be double for four suckers or eight fillets.)

Pickled Sucker

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in May 2016 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Sucker on Mother’s Day

  1. Oh, that sounds like a wonderful Mother’s Day morning! I’m not a fisher-person, either, but I love the up at dawn, morning chill, warm clothes, hot coffee, invigorating breath from the water aspects of it. You perfectly evoked the experience for me! We used to make an annual trip to go “sucker dipping” with my Dad. We smoked them, mostly, but also canned, pickled and fried up fresh suckers, as the kids had so much fun catching them with their bare hands!

    • Kathy says:

      Glad to have brought back some good memories, Cindy. To think that sucker were that plenty that you could catch them with your hands. Not quite like that these days. Are there sucker in your island rivers?

  2. debyemm says:

    I come from a long line of fishermen and have been accused of exaggerating sometimes as fishermen are wont to do. Some of my fondest memories are my paternal grandparents taking us grandkids fishing with them.

    I saw a heart in your image “Log in river as the sun rises”.

    Happy Mother’s Day to you, Kathy. I did what I love out in the wild as well.

    • Kathy says:

      Grandparents can be great introductions to fishing. Glad that you shared some of your fond memories. As for that heart–I didn’t see it until now. Thank you! And happy to hear you enjoyed your mother’s day in nature.

  3. Val says:

    Fabulous photos of the water and trees (and you). I don’t fish and probably wouldn’t be able to unless I were starving as I can’t stand seeing things hurting or dying. I’m a fish and meat (well, chicken) eater with the mind of a vegetarian… you know, one of those hypocrites who eats it but wouldn’t kill it. I love, love, love the ‘wife in the sun’ photo because of the contrasts in shade and likght. And the wet sand… 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Val, well I’m glad to have included the wife in the sun photo. We were mostly vegetarian for many years–except for fish. Husband would not know how to live without fish, I think! I am not as fond of it as he is, though, and usually beg off most fishing trips.

      • Val says:

        Mmmm, mine wouldn’t know how to live without fish, too. Though his come from the supermarket. 🙂

  4. msmcword says:

    From msmcword:
    Welcome back, Kathy! As always, I enjoyed the photos you include with your blog posts (and I enjoy reading your blog again, too).

    I am still blogging-in fact I am in the process of learning how to photoblog. In fact, my previous two posts on have photos included with them.

    I hope you enjoyed your Mother’s Day.


    • Kathy says:

      Nancy, nice to have you stop by and read. I’ve been blogging for a little more than a month now. We’ll see if it continues or not. Congratulations on learning to put photos in your blogs. When I first starting blogging my husband (who is an editor of a newspaper) urged me to add some photos to break up the text. He said that’s what most people want to see. So I have obliged him and the formula seems to work. Happy Mother’s Day to you, as well.

  5. Brenda says:

    Sounds like your Mother’s Day was simply delightful! The pictures are perfect, allowing us to see your world and the things and people you love. Thank you ❤

    My Mom used to enjoy pickled herring and it was always a treat for her on holidays. My Dad, on the other hand, enjoyed pickled pigs feet. Not something I ever had the desire to try.

    Thanks again for thinking of me on Mother's Day and for the wonderful surprise! ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, it was like writing an outdoor blog again. Glad to give you a glimpse of the U.P. world. I so agree with you about those pickled pigs feet…don’t think I could even try one! I am not that fond of pickled sucker, either. Now give me a Dilly Bean any day! (And you’re welcome about the Mother’s Day surprise.)

  6. Diane H says:

    I remember my dad fishing for sucker and bringing it home for mom to can. We called it “Poor Man’s Salmon”

    • Kathy says:

      Diane, that’s a good name for it. Barry’s other fishing buddy’s husband was going to smoke their sucker. I will tell Barry your name for it. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment.

  7. dawnkinster says:

    Definitely a unique way to spend mother’s day! Looked beautiful!

  8. dorannrule says:

    I am an eat-at-but-don’t-kill hypocrite too. But your mother’s day with nature sounds like fabulous.

    • Kathy says:

      It’s sure hard to witness the death of our food, Dor. I don’t particularly like it, either, but figure that since we do occasionally eat meat…I had best have a stiff upper lip. I like the Native American reverence stories. After they killed the deer or fish or rabbit they would give thanks for their brother or sister who gave his or her life so they might live. That sounds respectful and honorable to me.

  9. lisaspiral says:

    I may have to try that. Not with suckers, but it’s possible I’ll find myself with a northern this summer.

    • Kathy says:

      Let me know how you like it, Lisa. Wow I just had some smoked sucker from Barry’s friend, Nancy this afternoon. It is so good!

  10. sherrysescape says:

    I loved vicariously participating in your adventures!

  11. I am glad that you had a suckering super-duper morning for Mother’s Day. It was a good thing to accompany your husband for his sucker expedition. The recipe sounds like a fish lover’s dream. The photos are great as usual. Puts into perspective what it looks like where you live.

    • Kathy says:

      It was a good thing, Yvonne. He was so happy that I would come and share in his passion for fishing. Interesting comment about putting it into perspective about where we live. It does show what it looks like along that river, but I feel like the rivers around here (45 miles away) look different. How funny–how quickly we get attuned to small differences. I am even learning the differences in chipmunks! Never thought that would be possible. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it a lot.

  12. Carol Ferenc says:

    Your Mother’s Day looks like it was perfect, Kathy. It’s hard to beat spending time with nature ~ even on a chilly morning. Love the photos and I especially like the fisherman through the trees and the river sand. Very artistic! I’m not a fisherman but I do love a taste of pickled herring now and then!

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, I came to that same conclusion. My mind often wants to stay hoooome on a chilly morning, and NOT go outside–but it so often feels wonderful once I’m there. Did have a sampling a smoked sucker yesterday from one of Barry’s fishing friends. It was delicious! Tasted just like whitefish. And had a bite of pickled sucker a few minutes ago. It isn’t bad…

  13. Lori says:

    Sounded like a peaceful and relaxing Mother’s Day. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Kathy says:

      Lori, thanks for reading and pausing to comment. It always means a lot, doesn’t it? Am headed downstate today to visit my mom. Looking forward to a nice solo trip–but need to get lots done first!

  14. Happy belated Mother’s Day, Kathy! So you’re saying the Uppies not only fish but they fish for their bait fish? That’s seems very dedicated. I used to love fishing off the Jersey shore but we always bought our bait on the way. I was never one to clean the fish, either. Usually I’d ask my husband to bait the hook too. And of course remove the catch from the hook. I guess I loved just the standing around doing nothing part!

    • Kathy says:

      I am smiling this morning reading your comment, Patty. Yep, sounds like the Yooper fisherfolk are a dedicated bunch. (Not being one of them, I can only look on and agree…) My husband has to bait and clean any of my catches, as well. I didn’t fish on Sunday because I don’t have a current fishing license. But the standing around part proved to be quite fun! I’m downstate visiting my mom now and having a great time. Take care and thanks for reading this little fish story.

  15. Debbie M. says:

    It looks like it was a “quiet” Mother’s Day to enjoy reflecting! (My favorite picture was of the fish flopping in the air.) I like to try new recipes, but I won’t be making the pickled fish! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Debbie, I’ll tell you a little secret. (It’s for anyone else who’s reading this far down in the comments, too, just our little secret.) I added that pickled sucker recipe in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way. It seemed VERY unlikely that any readers would be making pickled fish. Although, you never know. Someone might someday Google “how do I pickle fish?” and accidentally discover themselves on this blog. It’s a good recipe–says those who like pickled fish.

  16. I Wilkerson says:

    What unexpected fun! And I had to chuckle at your (very sensible) warm dress. I tend to be stubborn (stupid?) when it gets to be May. Yup today with it 39 and snowing, I was wearing a T shirt & sweater and no coat. Cause it’s spring. Already. So I will take a lesson from you and know that I really could be enjoying things more (if I weren’t running back to get warm).

    • Kathy says:

      Hi Inger, I am smiling at your stubbornness when it comes to “spring” dress. It sure would have been soooo cold if we hadn’t dressed up like it was March. Am now downstate in Michigan and it has been pretty cold even down here. Snowflakes yesterday! Hope things warm up soon, don’t you?

  17. HOW’D I MISS YOUR SUCKER POST?? I’m in a pickle over it. . I learn something new from you every time you write. No, like you, I’m not a fisherperson, but like you, I support my guy in any way I can. Andddd, I look for the unexpected in unexpected ways. Like suddenly finding this post, which must have been hidden in my too-full e-mail file.
    Hoping we all get another post soon. xoxox

    • Kathy says:

      Awwww, I love your comments! And that you understand about supporting your guy, even though it may not be a first choice of fun & entertainment. And I’ll bet you find ways to have fun anyway! I am excited about this unexpected comment, all these days later. Have been downstate visiting my mom for a week and am just getting settled back home and pondering another post. Except I plan to go a’reading my friends first!

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

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