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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2003

Spearing Traditions

Spearing tradition
Spearing enthusiasts grab their waders and head for the river
by John Grones  |  May 13, 2003

Each year, May 1st signifies one thing for the avid outdoorsman– the opening of sucker spearing. Several local sucker spearing enthusiasts grabbed their waders and a spear and head for the river. This year was perfect, because the water temperature on May 1st was just right for spawning.

For many, spearing is a tradition and for others it’s a chance to skip work, skip school, or just an opportunity to gather with friends and enjoy a beautiful spring day. For Dan Guida, spearing suckers on the first day in May has been a tradition that he has expanded to include his wife, Melanie, and the rest of her family.

Dan remembers bringing Melanie out when they first started dating in 1996. “At first, she tripped around in the river a bit, but she liked it so much, she invited her mom,” said Dan. “She liked it, and now the whole family comes up, if possible.”

According to Melanie, tripping around the river was fairly accurate. “I didn’t spear my first fish until I walked the entire river. Meanwhile, Dan had speared quite a few already. When I got one I yelled, ‘Yahoo’.”

Since the first date, the two have bought a piece of property that borders one of the best sucker creeks in Aitkin County. Each year, they make sure that May 1st is available, because there is only one thing they will be doing, spearing suckers. In fact, Melanie took the day off from her job teaching ECFE classes in Brainerd, well in advance so she could spend the day with her husband.

Dan also keeps the day free, as does his deputy sheriff friends. Steve Cook and his son, Adam, were there for most of the day, but Steve was on duty at 3 p.m. and left early. Adam was actually taking the day off from school, with dad’s permission. Adam had to finish a report for a class before he was allowed to go. Deputy sheriffs’, Sheryl Smith and Aaron Cook showed up later, and enjoyed their time in the river.

Dan has enjoyed sucker spearing since he was old enough to hold a spear and he is especially fond of his current sucker spearing location. Each year varies, the number of fish he harvests can be can be in the hundreds, but some years they don’t get a single fish.

Dan likes suckers prepared in a variety of ways. Sucker patties is one of his favorites. “I grill them, fry them or bake them,” he said. “Add some barbecue sauce, a slice of cheese, and put them on a toasted bun.”

Sure enough, Dan had some patties available on the grill for lunch break. He even had some barbeque sauce and slices of cheese.

So how good are they? “Well, Melanie will eat them, and she’s probably the pickiest eater in Aitkin County,” said Dan.

Now the real question was, what did Melanie think? She just smiled.

Dan also likes pickled sucker, and just about any wild game. Dan’s pretty proud of his groom’s dinner, which included sucker, marinated venison tenderloins, pheasant and wild turkey.

It’s been six years since that first time Dan brought Melanie to his favorite sucker spearing creek. Melanie is now experienced, and can often be observed spearing two fish in one plunge. She likes the fact that she is exposed to the activities her husband enjoys.

To me, it just means we will spend more time together.”

This article first appeared in the May 13, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.