The white sucker is one of most common fish in Minnesota. It lives in streams and lakes throughout the state particularly in the northeast. It can live in water that is fairly polluted. It is grown in ponds and sold for bait.
General description: Like other suckers, this medium-sized fish has big lips, no teeth, and soft fins. It is greenish on top and light-colored beneath, with scales increasing in size from front to back. Young white suckers have three large dark spots on each side of their body.
Size: White suckers can grow to more than 5 pounds, but 2 to 3 pounds is more common. A typical length is about 16 inches. Minnesota's record white sucker weighed 9 pounds, 1 ounce. It was caught in Big Fish Lake in Stearns County.
Color: This fish has a green back and sides and a lighter underside. Males develop a pale red side streak called "stripping" and dark back for the breeding season.
White suckers spawn in shallow water or streams over a gravel bed in April and May. Usually two males gather with a single female. The female may release up to 100,000 eggs during the spawning process.
Young white suckers feed on plankton near the water surface. Adults vacuum plants, animals, and other organic material off of the bottom of the river or lake.
White suckers are eaten by walleyes, northern pike, and bowfin. Some people eat them, but the meat is filled with tiny bones and can be difficult to prepare.
Habitat and range
Among the most widely distributed fish in Minnesota, white suckers live in small streams, rivers, and lakes. They are most common in the northern and eastern parts of the state.
Population and management
White suckers are abundant throughout the state. Their major roles in sport fishing are as a natural food for game fish and as a commercial bait fish.
During spawning season, male suckers grow pearl organs, which improve their reproductive success by allowing them to cling to a female.