What's In a Name?
White sucker: "white'" referring to the white undersides
of these fish, especially in the young; "sucker" refers
to the type of mouth
Catostomus (Cat-oh-stome´-us) means "sub-terminal
mouth" in Greek (the mouth is on the belly side of the
commerson (com-mair-sone´-ee) named after a French naturalist,
Where Do They Live?
The white sucker is one of Minnesota's most common fish, and
it is the most widely spread distributed sucker in Minnesota.
It is most common in the eastern and northern portions of the
state. White suckers are benthic (bottom dwellers) and live
in all kinds of lakes and streams from clean, stream-fed brooks
to slow-moving, turbid (cloudy) rivers.
How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
White suckers in Minnesota normally grow to about 300 mm (20
in) and weigh in at about 0.9- 1.4 kg (2-3 lbs). Lunkers can
go 2.3 kg (5 lbs). Minnesota's hook and line record for this
fish is 4.12 kg (9 lbs 1 oz). It was caught in Big Fish Lake
in Stearns County. White suckers typically live for about 10-12
What Do They Eat?
Because white suckers are benthic (bottom dwellers), they typically
slurp up things that live on the bottom. Their diet is highly
variable and depends on where they've been feeding. Some stomachs
have contained only insects, while others have contained only
plant matter. Typical food items include a variety of aquatic
(water) insect larvae, waterfleas, sideswimmers, snails, clams,
algae, other plant matter, detritus (decaying matter), and fish
What Eats Them?
White suckers are an important forage fish for several of Minnesota's
sport fishes. These include walleye, brook trout, muskellunge,
northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass. Additional predators
are burbot and, in Lake Superior, sea lamprey. Small white suckers
also fall prey to fish-eating birds such as herons, loons, bald
eagles, and osprey. Many smaller white suckers are a much used
bait in Minnesota, and many are commercially harvested for that
How Do They Reproduce?
The spawning season in Minnesota for the white sucker begins
in April and goes into early May. The fish move to the shallows
of the lakes or up into stream headwaters unless a barrier stops
them. Once there they pick spots that have a gravel or coarse
sand bottom. There is no nest made and the eggs go without care
from the parents. The white suckers pair up, usually two males
to one female. The spawning normally takes place at night, starting
at dusk. With a male on either side of her, the female begins
to lay her eggs while males fertilize them. The eggs are spread
out by the current and the movement of the fish. Eventually
they sink to the bottom. Depending on her size, a female will
lay 20,000-50,000 eggs during the complete spawning period.
The embryos develop for 5-10 days before they hatch, depending
on water temperature. It takes another 1-2 weeks before they
leave the gravel and drift downstream.
Conservation and Management
The white sucker is the most common sucker in Minnesota and
one of the most abundant of all species. It had no special conservation
status, but is considered an important forage species for many
sport fish. It is also a very important bait species and is
reared for that purpose, as well as commercially collected