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Northern hog sucker

Northern hog sucker


The hog sucker is not physically appealing, and its body conformation is disproportionately shaped. Its body is mottled brownish with a large, bony head, squarish in cross-section, with the interspace between the eyes broad and curved inward. Its 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.


Northern hog sucker Distribution

Abundant in the upper reaches of rivers and streams in northeastern Iowa and in the entire Des Moines River drainage. Rarely taken in fish collections from the Mississippi River, occurring only in the upper reaches. Rarely found in natural or man-made lakes; never been reported in the Missouri River drainage.


Immature aquatic insects, small mollusks and crustaceans

State Record

Expert Tip



Hog suckers prefer 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.

This fish species is well adapted for stream life. The heavy bony head, slender tapering body, enlarged pectoral fin and small swim bladder lets it 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 in late April or May when the water temperature reaches 60 degrees. Nests are not built, but the aggressive male fish cleans the gravel in riffles or at the downstream end of pools. They often gather in schools before 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. The amount of eggs produced 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 1 through 4. This species is the host of the glocaidial stage of the elk toe mussel, Alasmidonta marginata.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Volga River Clayton This stretch includes the headwaters in Fayette County and flows through Clayton County where it empties into the Turkey River just west of Garber. 81.00
Upper Iowa River (above Decorah) Winneshiek Find this stretch in Howard and Winneshiek County. A popular access is found in Kendallville Park and Campground off of Hwy 139 about 8 miles northeast of Cresco. 79.00
Cedar River (above Nashua) Floyd This stretch is found in Chickasaw, Floyd, and Mitchell Counties. A popular multi-use location is the Charles City Whitewater Park in downtown Charles City on Hwy 14. 63.00
Shell Rock River (above Greene) Floyd Located in Worth, Cerro Gordo, and Floyd Counties. A popular access point is Wilkinson Pioneer Park located at the end of CR B20 in Rock Falls. This park is the start of the Shellrock River Greenbelt and Preserve featuring 7.5 mi. of scenic bluffs. 58.00
Cedar River (La Porte City to Cedar Rapids) Linn This stretch is located in Benton and Linn County. A popular river access is in the Dudgeon Lake Wildlife Area right of Hwy 150 on the North side of Vinton. 56.00
Cedar River (Cedar Rapids to Moscow) Cedar This stretch is found in Linn and Cedar County. A popular access is found in Palisades State Park which is on Hwy 30 between Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon. 55.00
Wapsipinicon River (Troy Mills to Oxford Junction) Jones This stretch is located in Linn and Jones County. A popular access on this stretch is in Pinicon Ridge Park, just off Hwy 13 by Central City. 53.00
Vernon Springs Impoundment Howard Located 2.5 miles southwest of Cresco. 39.40
Yellow River Allamakee Coldwater section begins below Livingood Springs and east of Old Stage Road flowing through Allamakee County and the Effigy Mounds National Monument where it empties into the Mississippi River. 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) 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