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Catostomus commersonni (Lacépede) The common
white sucker has an elongated, cylindrical body with
large, generally silvery, scales. The snout is blunt and the
inferior mouth has thick lips which have two or three rows of
-inferior mouth, beneath the snout, and commersonni - after P. Commerson, an ‘early French naturalist.
Coloration may be variable, but it is
generally olivaceous, and darker at spawning time. Breeding
males have a black lateral band, a salmon-coloured or rosy Flush
beneath the lateral band, and tubercles on the anal fin and the
lower portion of the tail lin. Young fish usually have three
black spots on the sides of the body: one immediately behind the
head, one below the dorsal lin, and one at the back of the
In northern Canada, the white sucker is distributed from the
Mackenzie River, Hudson Bay and Labrador to the Maritime
Provinces, and in the United States, southward on both sides of
the Appalachians to Georgia, Arkansas and Colorado.
ln Ontario, it occurs in almost all lakes and
rivers from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay.
The white sucker spends most of its time on the bottom of clear,
shallow water of small to large streams and lakes.
Movements: After spawning, the adults return to quieter waters.
Postlarvae or immaturely developed fry soon follow and, in early
spring. Swarms of these may be found along the borders of the
lake. As transformation to the young lish stage takes place,
they may move into shallow, shoreward vegetation.
In April or May, the white sucker ascends
streams to spawn in moderate to swift riffles, in gravelly and
stony areas, when the water temperature is above 40°F.
The spawning grounds may be similar and in
close proximity to those used by the walleye, but the sucker
spawns later and in shallower water.
Observations have also shown that spawning
takes place in the shallow water of lakes. Enormous numbers of
eggs are scattered at random over the spawning grounds; it has
been estimated that an adult female will lay 30,000 to l30§000
The first food of the young sucker is plankton
or minute, free-floating and free-swimming life in the water but,
as a change in the structure of the mouth takes place, a bottom
feeding habit is developed.
Bottom ooze is fed upon extensively during the
early period of bottom feeding; the protrusible mouth is well
adapted for sucking food off the bottom. After a length of two
inches is reached, insects begin to show in larger and larger
numbers in the diet. The sucker is principally insectivorous
and, because of this,
it competes with trout and bass,
species of prime importance. Other food items are aquatic
plants, molluscs and worms. Food is not normally taken during the spawning