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Northern hog sucker

Northern hog sucker

Characteristics

the body is mottled brownish with a large, bony head, squarish in cross section with the interspace between the eyes broad and curved inward, this species is the host of the glochidial stage of the elk toe mussel

Distribution

Northern hog sucker Distribution

locally abundant in the upper reaches of rivers and streams in northeast Iowa and the entire Des Moines River drainage, rarely taken from the Mississippi River - occuring only in its upper reaches in Iowa

Foods

immature aquatic insects, small mollusks and crustaceans

State Record

Expert Tip

Details

The hog sucker is locally abundant in the upper reaches of rivers and streams in northeastern Iowa and in the entire Des Moines River drainage. It is rarely taken in fish collections from the Mississippi River occurring only in the upper reaches. The species is rarely found in natural or man-made lakes and has never been reported in the Missouri River drainage.

This fish prefers clear streams, especially riffles where the current is rapid and the bottom scoured of silt leaving substrates of gravel, rubble or boulders. It does not live well in lakes, river impoundments and large, turbid rivers.

The hog sucker is not physically appealing, and its body conformation is disproportionately shaped. The body is mottled brownish with a large, bony head, squarish in cross-section, with the interspace between the eyes broad and curved inward. The eyes are closer to the gill cover rear margin than to the snout. The tapered body and tail are very slender. The dorsal fin is short with 10 to 11 rays. Lips are thick and covered with wart-like bumps. The air bladder has two chambers. Adults are small, usually 8-15 inches long, and weigh from one-third to 1 1/2 pounds.

This fish species is exceedingly well adapted for stream life. The heavy bony head, slender tapering body, enlarged pectoral fin and small swim bladder permit it to maintain itself in swift currents on the bottom in rocky riffles. Its behavior is more characteristic of darters and sculpins than suckers.

Spawning occurs in the third year of life in both sexes during late April or May when the water temperature reaches 60 degrees F. Nests are not constructed, but the aggressive male fish cleans the gravel in riffles or at the downstream end of pools. They often congregate in schools prior to spawning, but two or three males spawn a single female. The non-adhesive eggs are broadcast at random to hatch in 10 to 11 days. Fecundity is unknown. Hog suckers show little concern while spawning and may even be picked up by observers. Growth averages 1.5, 4.0, 6.9 and 9.0 inches for ages I through IV. Hog suckers forage mainly on animal matter that includes immature aquatic insects, small mollusks and crustaceans. This species is the host of the glocaidial stage of the elk toe mussel, Alasmidonta marginata.


Return

Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Yellow River Allamakee T96N, R6W, S3 to T96N, R4W, S24 25.00
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
Trout Run Winneshiek Located on the south side of Decorah off Trout Run Road. 2.20
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20
Joy Springs Clayton South on Alpha Ave, off Highway 3 about 3 miles west of Strawberry Point in Joy Springs County Park. 0.80

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