Catostomus commersoni
White Sucker

White Sucker

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The natural history of the northwoods



  • Catostomus, from the Greek, "subterminal mouth"
  • commersoni, in honor of French naturalist Philibert Commerson (1727-1773)
  • Other common names include: Bay Fish, Black Mullet, Black Sucker, Brook Sucker, Coarse-scaled Sucker, Common Sucker, Eastern Sucker, Fine-scaled Sucker, Grey Sucker, June Sucker, Mud Sucker, Mullet, Slender Sucker, Sucker


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
    • Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Ostariophysi
        • Order Cypriniformes, minnows and suckers
          • Family Catostomidae, suckers
            • Genus Catostomus, common suckers
  • Known to hybridize with closely related catostomids.


  • A slender, fine-scaled sucker found in most BWCA lakes
  • Length 12"-20"
  • Weight 2 to 4 lbs
  • Color
    • dark greenish, grey, coppery brown through brown to black on back
    • sides with brassy or silvery luster
    • creamy white on lower sides and below
    • dorsal and tail fin dusky to clear
  • Body
    • dorsal fin straight or slightly concave, with 10-13 rays
    • anal fin of 7 rays
    • pelvic fin of 10-11 rays
  • Head
    • lips fleshy and heavy, with numerous small, wart-like projections
  • Breeding males may become very dark colored and develop tubercules over the head, fins, and body.


  • Distinguished from other suckers and redhorses by a complete lateral line containing 55-85 small scales.


  • Most of Canada, south to New Mexico, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia.


  • Highly adaptable to differing habitats and changing environmental influences, it is relatively tolerant of turbid and polluted waters.


  • Primarily bottom feeder, with aquatic insect larvae, small mollusks, crustaceans, and various terrestrial worms preferred. Will, however, take almost any food that is available
  • With fleshy mouth aimed downward, they vacuum up worms, clams and, some say, the eggs of other fish.
  • A natural prey species for Northern Pike, Muskellunge, Walleye, Sauger, Largemouth Bass, and Smallmouth Bass.


  • Minnesota Record: 9lbs 1oz, from Big Fish Lake (Stearns County)


  • Most are caught accidentally by anglers fishing with worms on the bottom of streams
  • Though the meat is firm and good tasting, white sucker seldom appears on a restaurant menu -- lacks market appeal. Processed in a variety of ways for the market, often as "mullet."
  • Juveniles often raised as food in the propagation and rearing of predatory fish. Often sold as bait fish, where they are typically known as "sucker minnows".


  • Spawning commences with migratory spring runs that may be initiated by runoff from early snow melt. Actual spawning occurs in late spring when water temperature ranges from 57º to 68º F.
  • Spawning takes place in swift or flowing water over bottoms of rubble or gravel. Adhesive eggs are broadcast at random and incubate 5 to 7 days.
  • Spawning males are gregarious, occupying spawning shoals before the females. Several males may spawn a single female; often times two males spawn a single female similar to the behavior of redhorses.
  • A large female can produce some 100,000 eggs.


  • An excellent native fish for garden ponds, referred to as "sucker minnows" when purchased as "live bait".


Boreal border

Last updated on 15 October 1999