White Sucker

White sucker


slender, fine-scaled sucker; tinted dark greenish along back; sides with brassy or silvery luster; white belly, lips with numerous wart-like projections


White sucker Distribution

statewide, mostly in small rivers and streams


variety of bottom organisms; growth up to 18.5 inches at ten years of age, most fish much smaller

State Record

not recorded

Expert Tip

most white suckers are caught accidentally by anglers fishing with worms on the bottom of streams


The white sucker is widely distributed in Iowa. It is abundant in small rivers and streams, common in natural and man-made lakes, occasional in the Mississippi River and large tributary rivers, and rare in the Missouri River. Highly adaptable to differing habitats and changing environmental influences, it is relatively tolerant of turbid and polluted waters.

The white sucker is a slender, fine-scaled sucker that is tinted dark greenish along the back and sides, with a brassy or silvery luster on the sides and a white belly. The dorsal and tail fin are dusky to clear. Breeding males may become very dark colored and develop tubercules over the head, fins and body. Adults commonly reach 10 to 16 inches in length and weigh up to 2 pounds.

The distinctive characteristic that separates this species from other suckers and redhorses is a complete lateral line containing 55-85 small scales. The lips are fleshy and heavy with numerous small, wart-like projections. The dorsal fin is straight or slightly concave with 10-13 rays, anal fin with 7 rays, and the pelvic fin with 10-11 rays. Sexual dimorphism may occur in adult brood fish. White sucker are known to hybridize with closely related catostomids.

Spawning commences with migratory spring runs that may be initiated by runoff from early snow melt. Actual spawning occurs in late spring when water temperature ranges from 57 to 68 degrees F. Eggs are broadcast at random and they are adhesive. Eggs incubate in 5 to 7 days. Spawning males are gregarious, occupying spawning shoals before the females. Several males may spawn a single female; often times two males spawn a single female similar to the behavior of redhorses. Spawning takes place in swift or flowing water over bottom substrates of rubble or gravel. Fecundity of a 19-inch female is around 93,000 eggs. Both sexes of white sucker mature at age II. Growth of white sucker ranges from 7.0 inches at age I to 18.5 inches at age X. This species has diverse feeding habits, taking almost any food that is available. They are principally bottom feeders making aquatic insect larvae, small mollusks, crustaceans, and various terrestrial worms preferred food items.

White suckers are a natural prey species for northern pike, muskellunge, walleye, sauger, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. Juvenile suckers are often cultured for food in the propagation and rearing of predatory fish. They are often sold as bait fish.

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Red Rock Reservoir Marion 4 miles north of Knoxville 15250.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
Big Creek Lake Polk 2 miles north of Polk City 814.00
Swan Lake Dickinson 2m N Superior 371.00
Roberts Creek Lake Marion 6 miles northeast of Knoxville 288.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Volga Lake Fayette Located 3 miles north of Fayette. 135.00
West Nishnabotna River Fremont 121.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa 104.00
Union Grove Lake Tama 4 miles South of Gladbrook 100.00
Beeds Lake Franklin 2 miles west, 1 mile north of Hampton 90.00
Little Sioux River (Correctionville to Missouri R) Harrison Little Sioux Park, 2 miles SW of Correctionville, Woodberry County Conservation Board 57.00
Des Moines River (Stratford to Saylorville Lake) Polk The Highway 30 Access is in the middle of this river section and is located 3 miles west of Boone on the north side of Highway 30. 57.00
Badger Lake Webster 4 1/2 miles north of Fort Dodge 45.00
Yellow River Allamakee T96N, R6W, S3 to T96N, R4W, S24 25.00
Lake Oelwein Fayette Located on the south edge of Oelwein. 23.00
Paint Creek Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 11.00
Waterloo Creek Allamakee Streams runs through Dorchester along Waterloo Creek Drive and Highway 76. 10.50
Scharnberg Pond Clay 3m E Everly 10.00
Maquoketa River (trout portion) Clayton The Upper Maquoketa River from Joy Springs downstream to Backbone Lake contains trout year-round. The area 3 miles southwest of Strawberry Point off 400th is stocked with catchable fish. 8.00
Bloody Run Creek Clayton Located 2 miles west of Marquette off of Highway 18. 6.50
North Bear Creek Winneshiek Located 2.5 miles northeast of Highlandville. 6.00
South Bear Creek Winneshiek Located at Highlandville. 5.20
Hillview R.A. Pond Plymouth 2m W Hinton 5.00
Sny Magill Creek Clayton Located in the Sny Magill Wildlife Management Area, 3 miles southwest of McGregor along Keystone Road. 5.00
Ocheyedan Pit #1 Osceola 2 miles south of Ocheydan 4.00
Coldwater Creek Winneshiek Located 3 miles northwest of Bluffton off of Coldwater Creek Road. 4.00
Clear Creek (put and grow) Allamakee Located on Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area, 4 miles east of Dorchester along Sleepy Hollow Drive. 3.40
Coon Creek Winneshiek Located in Coon Creek Wildlife Management Area, 7 miles northeast of Decorah. 2.60
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 2.50
Otter Creek Fayette Located 3 miles southeast of West Union. 2.50
Pine Creek Allamakee Located on Pine Creek Wildlife Management Area, 2 miles northeast of Sattre on Balsam Road or CR W60. 2.50
Fountain Springs Delaware 2.5 miles northeast of Greeley along Oak Road. Most of the fishery lies within Fountain Springs County Park 2.30
Spring Branch Delaware 3 miles east-southeast of Manchester off 205th Avenue. Parking available near highway 20 overpass and Manchester Fish Hatchery 2.20
Turtle Creek Mitchell Located about 1/2 mile north of St. Ansgar off of Highway 218. 2.20
Trout Run Winneshiek Located on the south side of Decorah off Trout Run Road. 2.20
Upper Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque near Swiss Valley Nature Center, just off Swiss Valley Road 2.10
Clear Creek Allamakee Stream runs along Highway 9 through Lansing. Public angling access is at the County Park located off South Road Drive. 2.00
Ashton Park Pond Osceola 2.00
Brush Creek Jackson Located 2 miles norteast of Andrew just south of 261st street. 1.90
White Pine Hollow Dubuque This fishery is located primarily within White Pine Hollow State preserve, about 2 miles northwest of Luxemburg. Access to this fishery is difficult. A small parking area is available on the east side of the preserve. Best fishing is on the west side. 1.80
Buck Creek Clayton Located 3 miles northeast of Garnavillo. 1.70
Hickory Creek Allamakee Located 1 mile southwest of Volney off of Hickory Creek Road. 1.50
Grannis Creek Fayette Located in Grannis Creek Wildlife Management Area, 3.5 miles southeast of Fayette off of Grannis Road. 1.50
Casey Springs Winneshiek Stream located north of Decorah. T99N, R9W, S25, 26 1.50
Patterson Creek Allamakee Stream located 4 miles northwest of Waukon. 1.40
Richmond Springs Delaware 3 miles south of Strawberry Point. Located entirely within Backbone State Park. Closest to north park gate access. 1.40
Hewett and Ensign Creeks (Ensign Hollow) Clayton Located on Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area about 5 miles north of Strawberry Point. Access is provided on the north side of 322nd street. 1.30
Little Turkey River Delaware 3 miles east of Colesburg in Hoffman Wildlife Managment Area off Hubbard Road 1.20
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20
Tete des Morts River Jackson Located near St. Donatus. T87N, R3E, S4 1.10
Big Mill Creek Jackson Located on Big Mill Wildlife Management Area, 4.5 miles west of Bellevue just south of Mill Creek Road. 0.90
Mink Creek Fayette Located on private property 1.5 miles north of Wadena, access on Bighorn Road. 0.90
Twin Bridges Delaware Just south of Highway 3 about 5.5 miles west of Colesburg in Twin Bridges County Park 0.90
Glovers Creek Fayette Access in Echo Valley State Park, about 3 miles southeast of West Union. 0.80
Lower Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque in Swiss Valley Park just off Swiss Valley Road 0.80
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80
Joy Springs Clayton South on Alpha Ave, off Highway 3 about 3 miles west of Strawberry Point in Joy Springs County Park. 0.80
Ozark Springs Jackson T86N - R1E; Section 32 0.70
tributaries to Tete des Morts River Jackson Located near St. Donatus. T87N, R3E, S16, 17, 23 0.60
Bankston Creek Dubuque Just south of Park Hollow Road, 3 miles north of Bankston in Bankston County Park 0.60
Bigalk Creek Howard Located 7 miles northeast of Cresco. 0.60
Baileys Ford Delaware 3 miles southeast of Manchester - follow signage from Jefferson Road. 0.60
Mossy Glen Clayton 5 miles northwest of Edgewood at the termination of the Level B portion of Eagle Ave. Road damage from weather has made access to this site difficult for all vehicles. Not recommended for low-clearance or 2-wheel drives. 0.50
South Cedar Creek Clayton Located 2 miles south of Garnavillo and may be accessed from Jigsaw Road. 0.50
Twin Springs Winneshiek Located on the west side of Decorah in Twin Springs City Park. 0.50
Bohemian Creek Winneshiek Located about 1.5 miles east of Protivin. 0.30
Monastery Creek Dubuque Monastery Creek can be accessed through the Dubuque County Swiss Valley Nature Preserve about 4 miles SW of Dubuque off of Swiss Valley Rd. 0.20