Freshwater Fish Gigging: Rivers, Streams, and Lakes
One of the most common-known methods of gigging in the South is gigging for flounder, frogs, or drum. We have done many blogs on saltwater gigging in the South but haven’t had the opportunity to touch on one of the most fun past-times with over 200 years of history: freshwater fish gigging.
Freshwater fish gigging is allowed for non-game fish in most states, which include carp, suckers, gar, bowfin, bullhead, drum and “other fish” as stated in most parks and wildlife manuals. One state, Oklahoma, is one of the few that allows gigging White Bass! Known by locals as “Sand Bass” they are one of the most abundant freshwater fish in Oklahoma. Hence, they earned the state fish of Oklahoma title. Quick fact – catfish will follow schooling white bass to feed on the dying shad that is falling from the surface. It’s a free buffet!
Freshwater Gigging Basics
Some states limit the gigging season to certain months of the year and times of the day (Sept. 15 to Feb. 15 and 10 AM – Midnight for Arkansas, Open all day & all year for Texas with restrictions on certain fish) It is important you check with your local parks and wildlife department so you don’t get yourself in trouble trying out what may be a new sport to you.
Similar to flounder gigging, freshwater gigging is best accomplished in shallow water areas and works best with a trolling motor or fan pusher motor on an aluminum boat. Aluminum is recommended over fiberglass simply due to the higher abuse tolerance for the shallow water rocks and logs.
You will still need some good lights that can cut through clear or murky water, which is why we strongly recommend our Swamp Eye Lights. They are capable of changing via remote control from a bright white color to a warm white color with the touch a button. Don’t let some murky water ruin those days you took off work!!
Freshwater vs. Saltwater: The Difference
The key to gigging for flounder is “simply” finding them. Once you understand the moon, tide, barometric pressure, seafloor bottom types, food sources etc. (as explained in previous blog posts) you can culminate a good recipe, which will put the odds in your favor that you will find a couple or more flatties. Once you find them, they are stationary and normally don’t move. Here’s the difference: freshwater fish are always moving. Your target fish are all upright swimming fish and much like gigging sheepshead in saltwater, you have to be quick and accurate to bring them in the boat. It may take a few trial and error runs but eventually you’ll be hauling in sucker after sucker.
Similar to flounder, suckers are considered some of the best-eating fish and some Missouri residents will take a sucker over any catfish fillet. The key to cooking a sucker is going to be preparation; they are much easier to mess up than a catfish fillet. They are boney fish but when scored, battered with corn meal and fried, the larger bones will crystallize while the smaller bones dissolve in the fry oil. Some experienced chefs are able to score so well that all of the bones dissolve in the fry oil. Originating in the Ozarks, fried suckers are highly sought after by many avid fish giggers.