The white sucker is probably the most common and widely distributed sucker. Its natural range is from northern Canada to Florida, throughout the uplands of eastern North America, and west to the Rockies. While not considered a highly desirable fish, it is a large enough fish to be sought by anglers, often for cut bait. They are potentially an underutilized sport fish, as their flesh has a fine, sweet flavor and it is sometimes sold as “freshwater mullet.”
White suckers are cylindrically shaped. The back and head are an olive-brown color transitioning to a light yellowish hue on the sides and a whitish belly. The lower lip is split into two parts and wider than high. The rounded snout does not extend beyond the fleshy upper lip. Maximum length is about 24 inches and five pounds.
The preferred habitat of white suckers is cool, clear rivers, streams and lakes. However they are tolerant low oxygen and silted waters. Suckers generally feed on the bottom, dining on aquatic plants, algae, and small invertebrates. White suckers are schooling fish and are moderately active in the daytime, but do most of their feeding at sunrise and sunset.
In spring, when water temperatures reach about 50 degrees, white suckers make their spawning runs, or migrations. White suckers lay their eggs on gravel beds in lake and river shallows, generally after dark. Neither parent cares for the eggs or young. Sexual maturity arrives at three to eight years. Life expectancy appears to be about 15 years.
White Sucker in Colorado
The species inhabits lakes, streams and rivers throughout Colorado. In streams, adult white sucker are found in pools and runs but require low-to-moderate currents. Rip-rap banks, bridge abutments, boulders, and undercut banks are preferred locations in streams and rivers. Younger white suckers, less than 6 inches, are found in runs and riffles with moderate velocity and backwater areas (Propst 1982). White suckers tolerate a wide variety of conditions including river stretches greatly enriched from domestic sewage treatment plant effluents. Propst (1982) often found the white sucker to be the most common fish at such locations, although numbers were lower than at similar, unpolluted sites.
A robust sucker, round to oval in cross section; snout rounded and fleshy, scarcely overhanging the mouth; mouth ventral; no notch or indentation at the lateral connection of lower and upper lips, thick upper lip with 4-8 rows of papillae, lower lip with deep median cleft, median indentation of lower lip separated from the edge of the lower jaw by two or less rows of papillae. The dorsal fin not falcate, with 10-13 rays. Scales are moderate in size; less than 75 scales along lateral line. Adults are darker dorsally (olivaceous) fading to white on the stomach. Young are olivaceous to white. During spawning season, males and females may become very dark on the back and sides. Length at the end of first year from 4-6 inches. Adults may be longer than 20 inches and weigh about 2-3 pounds.
Range in Colorado
In Colorado, the species is native and abundant on the eastern slope. Many introductions of this species and the longnose sucker, also an East Slope native, to West Slope waters occurred when the fish were mixed with trout plants from eastern hatcheries and through the fisherman's bait bucket. Populations of these East Slope suckers have become numerous on the West Slope while flannelmouth and bluehead suckers, native to the upper Colorado River Basin, have disappeared from some West Slope waters.
Courtesy of Natural Diversity Information Source, CDOW
Colorado State records for sucker
Kept 23.25 inches, 4 lb 5.5 oz
Master Angler minimum qualifying length is 22 inches