November 27, 2014

'King of the River' reaches 50 years

Lauren Begley
An old article about Larry Daly and the Sucker Derby is taped inside of Daly's shed.
Lauren Begley
Larry Daly (right) sits with friend Owen DeDault outside of Daly's shed on the Rifle River. Daly set up his place along the river March 28 in preparation for the opening season for suckers, which begins April 1.
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OMER — This year marks the big 5-0 for Omer resident and Sucker Derby President Larry Daly.

Known as “The King of the River,” Daly as been a part of Omer’s infamous Sucker Derby for 50 years, and he has no plans to make this his last.

“My last year will be when I can’t make it down the bank anymore,” he said.

Although nets can’t be dropped until April 1, people have already been lining the river to catch suckers.

Daly said that suckers come as soon as the ice melts in the river, so fishing began much earlier this year due to the early thaw.

Since Daly began fishing for suckers with his father, he has seen many changes in the sucker population and the Sucker Derby turn out.

“Back then, there was a net every 10 feet,” Daly said. “They (the people) were bumping into each other.”

Daly remembers a time when suckers were considered noxious fish, meaning that they are pests. It was possible to get a noxious fish permit, and people would have “sucker wars” with selling fish.

“One guy would be selling six for a dollar, then another guy would raise it to eight for a dollar,” Daly said.

Currently, it is illegal to sell fish with a regular fishing license, Daly said.

The number of suckers has also fluctuated in the past several years. Daly said he’s seen a decrease in the number of suckers over the past four to five years.

“I think there’s less suckers from all the trout and walleye,” he said.

The number of people lining the banks of the river has also changed. The Sucker Derby used to be a larger event that included anglers of all ages, but this year it will only be put on for children. They will be giving out prizes to four different age groups, and the top three finishers in each category will be given new fishing poles.

Daly set up his spot on the river the weekend of March 28. He said that he goes home every day to shower, but the rest of his time is spent on the river.

“Now I’m retired; I stay down there all month,” Daly said.

The Sucker Derby will be held Saturday, April 3, but nets can be dropped April 1.

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