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River carpsucker

River carpsucker


back is brownish-olive in color with silvery sides fading to whitish belly, scales large, nipple-like extension on lower lip


River carpsucker Distribution

common from the Great Border rivers into the large interior rivers and most river impoundments in Iowa


algae, protozoans, small crustaceans, aquatic insects, aquatic worms and mollusks

State Record


Expert Tip



The river carpsucker was originally reported as a discrete species from the plains carpsucker (Carpiodes forbesi), but they are presently considered synonymous. This carpsucker is widely distributed and abundant in Iowa, occurring in large numbers in nearly all of the large interior rivers, as well as in the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. River carpsucker is highly adaptable to variable habitats, but it prefers large, silty rivers with slower-moving current over sand or silt bottoms. It also occurs in the smaller creeks and thrives in river impoundments.

The body of river carpsucker is stout; the back is moderately compressed and slightly arched. River carpsucker has a nipple-like projection at the middle of its lower lip. The back is brown-olive in color with silvery sides fading to a whitish belly. The fins are opaque except in older fish. Breeding males develop minute tubercules about the body. River carpsucker is the largest of the carpsuckers with adults commonly 12 to 18 inches long and weigh 1 to 3 pounds. Individual fish weighing over 10 pounds have been reported.

River carpsucker congregate into large schools and forage near the bottom. It browses on algae, protozoans, small crustaceans, aquatic insects, aquatic worms and mollusks.

Adults become sexually mature at ages II and III, depending upon sex. This fish spawns late in the spring at water temperature ranges of 65 to 75 degrees F. Spawning occurs in large fish congregations in flowing water over gravel and sandy bottoms. No defined spawning peak occurs as females do not ripen synchronously. Some females might spawn more than once per year. The adhesive eggs are broadcast at random. Fecundity of an average female is over 100,000 eggs. Incubation takes from 8 to 15 days. Average body length at each year of life is: 1-6.8 inches, 2-11.0 inches, 3-14.4 inches, 4-17.3 inches, 5-17.4 inches and 6-18.0 inches. Fish more than six years old are seldom observed, although river carpsuckers up to 10 years of age have been reported.


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
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 940.00
Big Creek Lake Polk 2 miles north of Polk City 814.00
DeSoto Bend at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Harrison 5 miles west of Missouri Valley at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge 811.00
Roberts Creek Lake Marion 6 miles northeast of Knoxville 288.00
Blue Heron Lake (Raccoon River Park) Polk southwest of West Des Moines; Raccoon River Park 232.00
Grays Lake Polk Fleur Drive, Des Moines 96.00
Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock) Marion 50.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Des Moines Water Works Recharge Basins Polk George Flagg Pkwy. Des Moines 35.00
Petersons Pit, West Story 4 miles northeast of Ames 33.00
Iowa River (Coralville Lake to River Junction) Johnson 29.00
Mohawk Park Lake Linn East side of the Cedar River off J Ave. 26.00
Jay Carlson Pit (west) Boone 3 miles west of Boone 25.60