Freshwater Rivers, Lakes, Streams
2 - 8 pounds
12" - 26"
The white sucker is a freshwater fish with a torpedo-like body. Their signature fleshy sucker-like mouth is a distinct feature of this fish as it uses its toothless, papillose lips to slurp sediments and organisms on the floor of rivers and streams.
The white sucker is omnivorous and will consume almost anything such as small organisms (mostly invertebrates), clams, snails, fish eggs, algae, and aquatic plants.
This cypriniform fish has shades and spots of dark green, olive-brown, and grays with a white underbelly. It has a long, rounded head and is covered by conspicuous scales. All of the white sucker’s fins are wide and can either be murky or clear. It has a broad, mildly forked tail.
Young white suckers are light brown and possess three very recognizable dark spots on their sides: in the back of the gill plate, the middle of the body, and the anterior of the tail.
After the breeding season and when fully mature, the white sucker can vary dramatically in size and is generally a large fish. They can reach an estimated size of 12 and 20 inches and can weigh anywhere from 2 to 6 pounds.
The white sucker is a pervasive species and is commonly found in the upper Midwest and Northeast in North America, covering a diverse area of about 1.5 million miles.
Shallow streams, or shallower bays of deeper lakes, and cold slow-moving rivers tend to be the natural environment of this fish species. Thick aquatic vegetation is not a requirement, although their preferred temperature seems to be between 53 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit.
They migrate during the spawning season, which may lead suckers into very small river tributaries or lakes where, on occasion, they may become trapped in shallow pools. This species is adaptable to diverse changes in the environment and is known to be resistant to muddy and polluted bodies of water. However, when in highly acidic waters, their breeding capabilities are compromised resulting in poor reproductive performance. The known lethal pH level for this fish is between 3.0 to 3.8.
The white sucker normally spawns in April and May in shallow water or streams, and theories suggest that water temperature changes are the trigger for their reproductive instincts. Two or three males have been known to mate with one female, and up to 10,000 eggs can be fertilized.
Spawning season is the perfect time for anglers to go after this game fish, which is between April and May. During this time, white suckerfish are generally feeding more, which makes them easier to catch.
It isn’t difficult to find these fish, as they are usually in shallow waters, and if you’re patient, you can see their tails moving in the water’s current. The inlets where the current empties into a stream or river are the best spot for anglers to find white suckers. When fishing for this species, you should also look near waterfalls, dams, and overflows, as these fish congregate in larger numbers when they are migrating upstream to spawn.
The catch can be achieved with a simple ultralight rod or light spinning reel without exceeding a 6-pound test. The perfect fly fishing tool is a handy, accurate slip sinker rig with a regular egg sinker and a size 6 baitholder to get the job done.
Generally, you will want to go for smaller bait, such as regular garden worms, since it will be easier for the white sucker to gulp it up from the bottom when fly fishing. Others suggest using “pack bait”, which is a special bait that carp anglers use that consists of softened grains made into a dough, that is then molded around a sinker. When the pack bait mixes with water it will attract white suckers to feed in the area.
A 6-weight fly rod with a 10-pound test and a 7-foot long lead line should also do the trick in reeling in larger white suckers. It’s best to use a fly that will go to the bottom quickly to mimic the white sucker’s normal food. The size of the fly has a direct relationship to the water’s clarity, so use larger ones in muddy waters.