Find the Smoker! Sucker Sales to Begin Soon

The sucker sale at the DNR’s Pike River Hatchery is likely to start sometime the week after Easter. Time to locate your smoker! The Vermilion Lake Association (VLA) has been conducting this spring ritual for 51 years since 1968.

The lake association sells suckers trapped during walleye egg-harvesting operations at the hatchery. The suckers are separated from the walleyes and placed in a 10-foot-by-10-foot holding pen formed by draping a large net over 4 floating timbers lashed together to form a square. The pen is moored at the shore a couple hundred feet from the main walleye egg-take operation.

Each morning at 8:00 am, two volunteers carefully walk out on the timbers to retrieve the far end of the net, which is then pulled toward shore to bring 1000 to 2000 lbs. of suckers within reach. A long-handled landing net transfers the suckers — many weighing 4 to 8 lbs — into 30-gallon trash barrels. When a barrel’s three-quarters full, it weighs about 100 pounds and is carried up the bank by two strong volunteers.

Buyers begin lining up well before the 8:00 am start. Those who arrive early sign-in on a clipboard to record their place in line. Each buyer is limited to one 100-lb tub until all have had their chance. Thirty minutes to an hour later, the pen is empty, and another batch of suckers are headed to smokers in the northland.

Suckers are sold for $10 per 100 pounds. Proceeds are used by the VLA for activities at Lake Vermilion.

Sucker sale information is updated by 4:00 pm each day. Sales will generally take place every day when sufficient suckers are available.

For additional information, contact Tom Forconi at 218-428-7096 or the hatchery at 218-753-5692.

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