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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. The distinctive feature that separates this species from other suckers and redhorses is a complete lateral line with 55-85 small scales. Its lips are fleshy and heavy with many 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. Adults commonly reach 10- to 16-inches long and weigh up to 2 pounds.
Statewide, mostly in small rivers and streams
Variety of bottom organisms such as aquatic insect larvae, small mollusks, crustaceans, and various terrestrial worms
5.06 pounds, 21.3 in – Otter Creek, Osceola County, March 2016 – Austin Steffen, Sibley, IA
Most White Suckers are caught accidentally by anglers fishing with worms on the bottom of streams.
The White Sucker is highly adaptable to differing habitats and changing environmental influences, it is tolerant of turbid and polluted waters.
Spawning starts with migratory spring runs that may be started by runoff from early snow melt. Actual spawning occurs in late spring when water temperatures are 57 to 68 degrees. Eggs are broadcast at random and are adhesive. Eggs incubate in 5 to 7 days. Spawning males are sociable, occupying spawning shoals before the females. Several males may spawn a single female; often 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. A 19-inch female produces around 93,000 eggs. Both sexes of White Sucker mature at age 2. Growth of White Sucker ranges from 7-inches at age 1 to 18.5 inches at age 10.
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 to propagate and raise predatory fish. They are often sold as bait fish.
Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.