by Dale Grubaugh
It’s comin’ on to dark and time to load the boat into the back of the pickup. Let’s make sure we have everything else; light shields, 300 watt lamps, gig, and don’t forget the paddle.
It’s a clear, cold November evening. There’s been just enough rain to keep the creek flowing (but not so much that the water will be murky).
It’s a good night to go giggin’.
No, we’re not going after frongs (you do that in the summetime when you have to fight the snakes fer the frogs). We are going after sucker fish, hog mollies and red horse. They make some mighty fine eatin’.
I started goin’ fish giggin’ with my dad when I was ust big enough to handle a boat paddle. I would paddle as best I could with his direction and he would do the giggin’. We had a great time as well as put food on the table.
The set up we used back then was a bit different that what you see today. Nowadays, fellas have bars across the front of their boats to keep from fallin’ in the water, large, plated light shields powered by generators and motors for propulsion. Seems mighty noisy to me.
I like to hear the night sounds on the water and to be able to talk. I like the smell of the creek instead of exhaust fumes.
We stood on the front seat of our flat-bottomed boat, using the gig pole as balance. never once did any of us go swimming off the front of the boat. Our light shields were — and still are — two aluminum shop shields that clamp on the front of the boat… powered by the truck battery.
If we stayed on the water too long, it was a long, cold walk home.
Giggin’ is not hard.
You just have to have a good sense of balance and a fair eye for aimin’. Giggin’ fish does take some accuracy — being able to hit a swimming target with a very unyielding wooden pole does take a little practice.
My dad is the best gigger I’ve ever seen. When he let me gig while he paddled? I thought I had really grown up.
As I did get older — and my dad was working nights — I would go with friends, cousins, and even my sister Rae Jean. She was a great paddler and wasn’t scared of being on the water at night.
One night we were on the creek and kept hearing splashing ahead of us. We thought maybe someone was trying to scare us by throwing rocks in the water.
No one answered when we hollered and I was getting irritated. Then I finally saw what was makin’ all the racket: an old beaver was building a dam upstream.
He was makin’ noises to warn us away. That beaver finally swam by the boat a few times just to make his presence known.
Not long after that, I saw a big carp layin’ on the bottom and I reared back and hit him with the gig. Now, he was big, nearly 30 pounds, and the water began to boil as he thrashed his tail and tried to get away.
The gig pole was shakin’ and I was havin’ trouble getting him into the boat.
Rae Jean was screamin’ at me because she hadn’t seen what I was giggin’ and thought I’d gigged the beaver. She was ready to get out of that boat!
So, after you’re done giggin’? What then? You gotta clean those fish.
And the best place to clean the suckers is right at the creek. You scale them down and then filet them. Score them when you get the filets home (scoring is the process of cutting the filets from the flesh-side down the skin side without breaking the skin). Make small cuts of about a quarter of an inch wide all along each filet.
Suckers have a lot of small bones and the scoring makes those bones kinda disappear during the cooking process.
Then roll the fish in corn meal and drop them in a skillet of hot grease. Add some hush puppies and fried ’taters and you have a meal fit for an Ozark king.
Well, if you’re ready, let’s head on down to the creek and get set up. If yer a good paddler, I might even let you try your hand at giggin’.
’Till next month.
Originally published November 22, 2009
About the columnist:
Dale Grubaugh, writing as “Elias Tucker from The Holler” is a valued contributor to State of the Ozarks. He is a man who loves his Ozark culture deeply.
As a Southern Baptist preacher and pastor, Dale has dedicated his life to the people of these hills.
Also, he has worked hard in many facets of the Branson show industry. And he has lived the Ozarks, fishing, hunting, appreciating the wilds that are so close — but so closely forgotten.
— Joshua Heston, editor