The northern hog sucker is a medium-sized, slender-bodied sucker with a large, square, bony head. The head is concave between the eyes. The mouth is at the tip of snout on the bottom. The lips are highly protrusible and covered with bumps. The eye is much closer to the rear edge of the gill cover than it is to the tip of the snout. There are usually 4 dark crossbars. The tail is forked.
Total length: 8 to 15 inches; maximum about 17 inches.
Abundant and widely distributed in Ozarks. Range extends northeastward from the Ozarks into prairie tributaries of the upper Mississippi River. Also found in Moniteau Creek (Moniteau County) and Cedar Creek (Boone and Callaway counties).
Habitat and Conservation
The northern hog sucker is one of the most abundant and widely distributed stream fishes in the Ozarks. It inhabits permanent streams with moderate to swift current, clear water, and a gravel or rubble bottom. It is usually found in riffles but also occurs in pools with current. This species’ coloration makes it almost invisible when in rests on a gravel stream bed.
An energetic feeder, overturning rocks and stirring up the bottom as it forages for immature aquatic insects and other bottom life with its fleshy, sucking lips.
A nongame fish.
Individuals can live for 11 years. Northern hog suckers spawn in April or early May, near the heads of gravelly riffles.
This fish is seldom taken on a baited hook but may be caught by gigging, snagging, and snaring. It's a less desirable food fish than other suckers, since much of its bulk is made up of the bony head, so there is less usable meat.
Other fishes, especially the smallmouth bass, longear sunfish, and various minnows, commonly follow foraging hog suckers to feed on the small organisms exposed by the hog suckers' energetic rooting.