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back and sides blue-black or dark olive with brassy reflections, white belly, small head and long sickle-shaped dorsal fin


Sucker Distribution

widespread distribution in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and in the lower reaches of their large tributaries


aquatic insects and their larvae, crustaceans and plant material including algae

State Record

15 pounds 1 ounce - Missouri River, Monona County, Sept. 1983 - Glen E. Dittman, Onawa, Iowa

Expert Tip


The blue sucker rarely occurs in fish collections in Iowa, but its distribution is rather widespread in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and in the lower reaches of their larger tributaries. It has never been documented in the upper reaches of our interior streams. Abundance has declined since the early 1900`s, but the species remains unprotected.

Blue suckers prefer the deep, large rivers and usually occupy the narrow chutes and swift channels where the current is moderate to swift over a bottom of gravel, sand and rocks. They are tolerant of high turbidity. Past records show this species made important spring runs up the Cedar River to the dam at Palisades State Park near Cedar Rapids, but at present they have nearly disappeared from this river stretch.

Little is known about the blue sucker life history in Iowa. Fisheries literature reveals that an upstream spawning migration into riffle areas takes place in late April to early May at water temperatures ranging from 50 to 60 degrees F. They are gregarious spawners broadcasting the semi-adhesive eggs over gravel and rubble bottoms directly in the current. Sexual maturity occurs at ages II and III. The duration of egg incubation and fecundity is unknown.

Growth of this species has been documented only in the Cedar River in Wisconsin. Twelve specimens in the study that ranged in age from 4 to 11 years averaged 3.5, 8.9, 14.8, 19.2, 21.1, 22.6, 24.0, 25.2, 26.2, 27.1 and 28.6 inches at the end of each year of life. Food of the blue sucker consists largely of aquatic insects and their larvae, crustaceans and plant material including algae, which they glean from the bottom in the typical vacuum-like manner.

Blue suckers are unimportant as a sport fish species in Iowa, although they are taken occasionally by fishermen. The record sucker, which weighed 15 pounds, 1 ounce, was taken from the Missouri River undoubtedly was a blue sucker. They are also netted infrequently by commercial fishermen in the Great Border Rivers.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
RAPP Park Lakes Page north edge of Shenandoah 95.00
Des Moines River (Stratford to Saylorville Lake) Polk 57.00
Boyer River (Dunlap to Missouri River) Pottawattamie 34.00
Burr Oak Creek Mitchell Stream located just north of Osage. T98N, R16W, S4, 5, 9, 10 2.00