Suckers are often overlooked in modern fishing and micro Suckers are even more overlooked. Though tricky, micro Suckers can be caught by hook and line. We prefer nighttime headlamp micro fishing for the best results with micro Suckers as they tend to hide away in the daylight hours.
Micro Sucker species in North America:
- Roanoke Hog Sucker
- Alabama Hog Sucker
- Rustyside Sucker
- Torrent Sucker
- Blackfin Sucker
- Blacktip Jumprock
- Bigeye Jumprock
- Summer Sucker
- Rio Grande Sucker.
Above: A Rustyside Sucker (Thoburnia hamiltoni) caught from a small Virginia river during night headlamp Microfishing.
Rods for micro-Suckers: Above: Left to right: Bamboo Pole, David Smith #1, Kolcinski #1 and #2, Kolcinski Darter Demon.
Hook selection: We recommend the dry fly or Aldridge #1 hooks for micro-Suckers as tanago hooks just don’t seem to stick and hold fish on reliably.
Hook selection is always important, below, from left to right: Gamakatsu Ultimate, Owner New Half Moon, Owner Smallest, Aldridge #1 size 30, Dry Fly size 28, Dry Fly size 26, Dry Fly size 22.
Hooks are the most important part of the microangler’s equipment, so buy good quality and sharp hooks. For micro-Sucker species, it’s good to use a hook with a little backbone and one that also has a decent sized barb to hold fish. I’ve managed micro-Suckers on all three of these hooks, although I only recommend the Aldridge #1 size 30 hooks and Dry Fly hooks in sizes from 18-26 or so.
Choose your hook style and size to accommodate the micro-Sucker species you are targeting. If you are microfishing for Roanoke Hog Suckers, go with a smaller size hook but if you were going for Summer Suckers (Catostomus utawana) with rather large mouths, a size 18 Dry Fly might be the better option.
Also keep in mind that most micro-Sucker species are very sensitive feeders and can feel larger hooks, barbs, and hook points. Therefore, it is important to bury the hook into the bait well and set the hook with a good amount of force to set the hook into the fish’s mouth.
Below: Left to right: Aldridge #1 size 30, Dry Fly size 22, Owner Smallest.
Below: Dry Fly hooks are acceptable in many sizes. I typically carry size 18, 22, 24, 26 and 28 in my micro tackle box.
Hands down the best bait for micro Suckers and many other stubborn micro species is bug larvae. Fish just seem to inhale them when they won’t budge for bits of worm. Collect your bug larvae earlier in the daytime by checking under large rocks in riffles in streams or by kick seining with a dip net in rocky riffles.
Red Worms or Earthworms work sometimes, and we’ve caught some micro-Suckers on small bits of Red Worm, but worms should be your second option for bait normally.
Below: Cody Cromer’s bug larva caught from underneath rocks in a small stream in preparation for night headlamp Microfishing.
Below: George the master life lister and angler trying for micro-Suckers in Virginia on a frigid night.
We found that micro-Suckers were still active well into the Fall. This was in November, and it was a little unpleasant temperature wise for us. Micro Suckers and many micro species in general go into the shallows at night. They do this to both feed and to avoid larger predatory fish.
Don’t directly shine fish with your light, shine till you see their outline and then slowly maneuver your bait near the fish’s mouth. Watch for your bait to disappear or any movements or bottom disturbances and then set the hook.
Below: A Roanoke Hog Sucker as viewed with a headlamp in mere inches of water.
Roanoke Hog Suckers rank as the most difficult of the Hog Sucker trio of species to catch via hook and line. This very stubborn individual finally took a bit of bug larvae on a size 22 dry fly hook. Try to stay behind the fish you intend to catch as micro-Suckers are super spooky.
Shine the fish enough to see it with your headlamp and then immediately take the light away, then slowly move your light back towards where you saw the fish, just enough to pick up the fish’s outline. Then slowly maneuver your bait and weight to the fish’s mouth and watch carefully and do not move. Try to watch for your bait to vanish and movement of the fish’s head, normally a bit of a shaking of the fish’s head and or bottom disturbance.
Do not shine directly! Micro Suckers will spook easily and likely will not bite if they know you are there.
Above: Snorkelfishing is another option for micro-Suckers. Here I was following around several Alabama Hog Suckers until I left my bait in the path of one that was feeding, and he took it.
Below: Success! A nice Alabama Hog Sucker caught on a small bit of Red Worm and dry fly hook. For this fish I left my bait in the fish’s feeding path, and he picked it up off the bottom and was on A “Lifer” net can be used to reduce the chances of fish falling off and swimming away.
MicroSuckers are notorious for getting off the hook easily, get them up quick and on dry land for photos and examination.
Below: Dr. Nick snorkelfishing a deeper pool in a small stream for micro-Suckers, Darters, and Madtoms. Deeper pools in small streams contain micro-Sucker species during the day and they can be caught this way but we feel that night headlamp microfishing is the best bet for success.
Below: If you do come upon micro-Suckers in the daytime, slowly make your way up and behind them and make sure your shadow won’t hit the water where the fish is. Try to stay low and this will be an uncomfortable position after several minutes while trying to get the fish to bite. We’re sore and extremely tired after doing this for several hours and it makes for a great workout.
Below: Vik Agabekov snorkelfishing a small stream in Virginia for Darters and Roanoke Hog Suckers. For night headlamp micro-Sucker microfishing, I prefer a rod around 2 feet long with 2 -pound mono or fluro. Below: A healthy Blacktip Jumprock (Moxostoma cervinum) that fell for a bit of Hellgrammite flesh.
By Tim Aldridge