Rural Missouri - December 2011 - (Page 8)

Giggin’ on the Gasconade Friends and family carry on this Ozark tradition Tim Pirtle of Fredericktown, left, and Jason Martin of Houston wait for a fish to swim beneath the lights of their boat so that they can gig it. Gigging is a popular Ozark pastime. by Jason Jenkins jjenkins@ruralmissouri.coop photos by Kyle Spradley fall and wintertime. off the shore and heads The fish targeted are considout to begin an eveered non-game or rough fish. ning of fishing, food and Typically, suckers are the fun on the water. preferred species, including Few outdoor pastimes • the yellow sucker, northare as connected to a region Vienna ern hogsucker and redas gigging for fish is in the horse sucker, although clear, spring-fed streams buffalo, drum and carp of the Ozarks. For those also may be gigged. who, generations ago, made While food still plays a part, fish a living on hardscrabble homesteads for the fry is only part of gigging. It’s scattered throughout these hills and an experience that Allan Branstetter hollers, gigging fish was once a means of Raymondville has been enjoying of putting food on the table. Today, it since he was a child growing up near is a time-honored activity for families the Big Piney River in Texas County. and friends to enjoy together in the Three generations of Branstetters would gather for this November gigging trip, including Allan’s father, Bob, and son, AJ. “The heat’s gone, the bugs are gone, the snakes are gone,” Allan says about gigging this time of year. “You can get out and enjoy some camaraderie with your good buddies.” Gigging gear Modern technology may have improved the equipment used for gigging suckers, but the practice is essentially the same as it has been for generations. You really only need three items: a boat, a light source and a gig attached to a long shaft. Early Ozark fishermen would gig suckers from handmade wooden johnboats, using paddles to steer the craft downstream. The boat would float perpendicular to the river’s current, allowing at least two men to stand and gig over the side where a basket of resin-filled pine knots would burn and illuminate the river bottom. Gigs of the day would have been hand-forged by a local blacksmith, and each would have had a personal style for his gigs. While three- and four-pronged gigs were most common, the number of prongs and overall size of a gig varied widely based on where and how it was to be used. In true Ozark fashion, various pieces of scrap metal were used to create gigs. An old pitchfork with broken tines might find new life as a gig. Leaf springs from old trucks also were popular as blanks for gigs. ne by one, they congregate on the banks of the Gasconade River. It’s been warmer than usual this November day, but as the sun fades into the horizon, the evening chill settles in. A few men head back to their trucks; long sleeves will be a necessity tonight. The group chats in hushed tones, catching up on things since they last got together. There’s talk about the kids and how the local high school football teams fared this season. Not a bad showing, but next year will be better. They talk about deer hunting and debate how the rut is progressing where they hunt. If it cools off, someone suggests, maybe this is the year that big buck finally ends up on the wall. Except for the light of a half moon, the group stands enveloped in darkness. The final party arrives, and with them, a bit of sad news. A good friend is in the hospital. It’s cancer, and the prognosis doesn’t sound good. The men remove their caps and join in prayer, offering supplications for their friend and for safety during the task now at hand. Amen. It’s time to go gigging. With a quick tug on the starting cord, a portable generator begins to hum methodically. A flip of a switch, and a bank of high-powered lights comes to life on the front of an aluminum johnboat. The group pushes O Jason Martin successfully gigs a northern hogsucker, or “hog molly,” one of three types of suckers that fishermen usually target while gigging in the Ozarks. 8 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - December 2011

Rural Missouri - December 2011
Table of COntents
Comments
Columns
Giggin’ on the Gasconade
A historic rumbling
Outdoors
Bent on perfection
Out of the Way Eats
Christmas country church tour
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Of two governments
Best of rural Missouri
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - December 2011

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