are so different, giggers and sport fishers have clashed in the past, even though giggers only target drum, gar, carp, suckers and other non-game fish. Back in the 1930s, gigging was even outlawed for short time.
Gigging finally was allowed after some vociferous meetings, but the hours were set from noon to midnight, during the last three calendar months of the year. Later, giggers were allowed to gig during the last two weeks in September, as well.
Presently, Missouri's gigging season for fish in streams and impounded waters runs from September 15 through January 31. On impounded waters, gigging is allowed between sunrise and sunset throughout the year. Gigging is prohibited in some Wild Trout Management and Trout Special Management areas. Giggers should consult the Wildlife Code for specific regulations and prohibitions.
Giggers don't really mind the late season or the hours. For them, it's a chance to get out on the river when the water is clear, and most giggers believe that the colder the weather, the clearer the water.
A late night fish fry is one of the great tradtions of gigging. We enjoyed an outdoor meal on our trip, but only after motoring downstream and upstream for several hours.
Tom's '67 Chevy pickup, now faded to a wedding-mint green and still sporting an "Impeach Nixon" bumper sticker, came equipped for a fish fry. After lighting the stove for the deep fryer, Tom pulled one of the floor boards from the truck bed, set it on the tailgate and began to clean fish, using the wood as a cutting board.
As Drew searched for campfire wood, I held a flashlight over the fish cleaning. I was shaking from the cold so much, it was hard to hold it steady. Tom often broke off from fish cleaning to warm his hands on the outside of the fryer.
First to go into the fryer were some frozen steak fries. When they floated to the top of the basket, Tom quickly removed them and dumped them into a brown paper bag and seasoned them liberally with garlic salt. He then folded back the sides of the bag to create a serving "dish."
Later came the hot fish, which were worth the wait. For dessert, Tom served the traditional "whomp-um" biscuits (those little dough circles in a can), which he made into doughnuts by poking his finger through each biscuit before dropping it into the hot oil.
As we were eating, other giggers started coming off the river. They sounded happy and tired. Some already had a fire and friends waiting to greet them on the bank.
When I recall that night on the river, I don't dwell on the cold and discomfort. What comes to mind is the camaraderie, the absolute silence when the motor is turned off, the winter sky twinkling with fairy lights, the quick jab of the gigger and, of course, the feast afterwards. As so often happens with outdoor trips, the good stuff far outweighs the bad.