Fishing and suckers and love shacks, oh my!


When I introduced myself a few months ago, I rattled off a list of all the things I had never done that I deemed “stuff people in Michigan do.” I hadn’t fished, ridden a snowmobile, hunted — and the list goes on from there.

Well, I can now scratch fishing off the list.

Over the past couple of weeks, I dropped by the Rifle River in Omer to talk to people and take some photos along the way, which was my way of prepping for the Sucker Derby on April 3.

The first time I went down to the river, there was a guy camped out on the south side of the U.S.-23 bridge who kept trying to get me to either fish or go out on the big rope swing. He backed off after a short while, and I continued on my way to see what other people were doing, thinking nothing of the encounter.

But then the day of the Sucker Derby came, and when I strolled down to the river, I ran into that same guy after only a couple of minutes into my time at the derby.

“You ready to fish now?” he asked.

I politely turned down the fishing lesson again, and went about my way taking photos.

However, this time around, I couldn’t avoid the fishing lesson completely.

As soon as I felt I had enough photos to choose from for the paper, I easily tracked down that person again and told him I was ready to give it a try.

Ten hooks later, I finally caught my first sucker.

I almost gave up after I managed to lose about six or seven hooks in that water. I felt bad every time I watched him take the pole back up the bank to put another hook on the line. But when I saw the people on each side of me catch a sucker, I knew I had to stick with it for a few more minutes, and it eventually paid off.

I remember asking him earlier how to tell if I had a fish or was just hooked to a rock, but when I finally caught a fish, it was very obviously a moving object and not some big chunk of debris in the river.

“Now you have to kiss it,” he said, as I held the fish up — only dropping it on the ground once.

No way.

Never happening.

After relaying this story to my best friend — a person who actually knows a thing or two about fishing — it apparently isn’t that weird to kiss a fish. That’s still not convincing enough for me to ever do it, though.

He took a photo of me pretending to kiss the fish in an over-exaggerated pucker several inches from the fish’s head, and then he said, “I hope that’s not how you kiss your boyfriends.”

I can’t recall word for word how the conversation went after that statement, but let’s just say that I was given an offer to experience a side of Omer sucker fishing that is not appropriate for a newspaper column.

The “Faron’s Love Shack” sign now made complete and perfect sense, but I chose to decline the offer.

I ended up with a fairly well-rounded experience at the Sucker Derby, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn how to fish for the first time in my life.

I’m not sure what should be next on my Michigan to-do list. Learning to shoot a gun, perhaps?

If I lost at least 10 hooks in the Rifle River, I don’t know if I’m ready to see where my bullets end up.


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