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Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin
(1983)

Sucker family - catostomidae,   pp. 607-691 ff. PDF (39.5 MB)


Page 686

 
686   Sucker Family-Catostomidae 
that may appear, including fish and fish eggs (Dobie 
et al. 1948). It has eaten mud, plants, mollusks, in- 
sects, entomostracans, diatoms, desmids, rotifers, 
crustaceans, and protozoans. Stomach analyses have 
shown 100% insects in some collections, 100% higher 
plants in others, 95% mollusks in one collection, and 
50% drift in other stomachs. The average percentages 
of food items in stomachs examined by several work- 
ers were: insects 39.0, crustaceans 3.3, mollusks 10.3, 
surface drift 2.1, plankton 26.3, higher plants 9.7, 
miscellaneous 8.8, and bryozoans 0.5. 
  The white sucker is essentially a bottom fish. In 
deep lakes, few if any are captured more than 46 cm 
(18 in) off the bottom (Spoor and Schloemer 1939). 
They move inshore in the evening and offshore in the 
morning. In Green Bay (Lake Michigan), they were 
most numerous at the 9-m interval, although a few 
were captured at 37 m (Reigle 1969a). According to 
Hile and Juday (1941), the maximum depths of occur- 
rence of white suckers varied from 5 to 10 m in Lake 
Mendota (Dane County) to 10 to 15 m in Lake Ge- 
neva (Walworth County) and Green Lake (Green 
Lake County). 
  In streams, the largest white suckers occur in the 
deep holes; they are easily stunned with electrofish- 
ing equipment, although such treatment is seldom 
fatal. White suckers keep poorly in holding tanks on 
hot days. They may survive low oxygen levels if the 
water temperature is low. 
  White suckers move about extensively (Olson and 
Scidmore 1963), dispersing widely after spawning. In 
South Bay of Lake Huron, white suckers traveled 0.6- 
12.9 km (0.4-8 mi) from the tagging site; one was 
reported 56 km (35 mi) away, 5 years after it was 
tagged (Coble 1967b). 
  In northern Wisconsin lakes, the white sucker pre- 
fers water temperatures of 11.8-20.6°C (53.2-69.1°F) 
(Ferguson 1958), generally at the lower part of the 
epilimnion and the upper part of the thermocline. 
On 1 August, the upper lethal temperature was 
31.2°C (88.2°F) (Brett 1944). 
  Beamish (1972) determined that the low to lethal 
pH for the white sucker is 3.0-3.8. In Lake Waubesa, 
and in the Yahara River below the lake, a sudden 
mortality of fishes occurred when the water became 
super-saturated with oxygen (Woodbury 1941); among 
the fish most affected were large, mature white 
suckers. 
IMPORTANCE AND MANAGEMENT 
In Wisconsin the sucker is an important forage fish. 
Muskellunge are known to feed on the white sucker 
and, in some areas, they are preyed upon by wall- 
eyes, basses, burbots, brook trout and sea lampreys. 
Small white suckers are also prey to such fish-eating 
birds as the bald eagle, heron, loon, and osprey 
Spawning suckers in streams fall prey to bears and 
other animals. 
  The white sucker is a host to the glochidial stage 
of the mollusks Alasmidonta marginata and Anadonta 
implicata; it is one of several fish species responsible 
for the distribution and perpetuation of those clam 
species (Hart and Fuller 1974). 
  The chief economic value of the white sucker lies 
in its use as food for sport fishes. From the time they 
emerge from the egg until they reach a length of 203 
mm (8 in), white suckers are the natural food of wall- 
eyes and northern pike (Eddy and Surber 1947). In 
Maine, the white sucker is one of the principal foods 
of lake trout over 2.27 kg (5 lb) (Everhart 1958). The 
vulnerability of white suckers to predation by small- 
mouth bass was almost nil. (Paragamian 1976b). 
  In the past, the white sucker has been criticized for 
eating the eggs of walleyes and muskellunge. Schne- 
berger (1972c), who examined several hundred white 
sucker and redhorse stomachs collected during spawn- 
taking operations, found that fish eggs were only oc- 
casionally ingested: "Apparently the sucker does not 
make a special effort to seek out fish eggs for food but 
merely sucks them up incidentally with its regular 
food." In Ontario, it has been shown that predation 
by suckers on brook trout eggs is insignificant com- 
pared with predation by the trout themselves (MacKay 
1963). In summation, the evidence for white sucker 
predation on spawning grounds of more desired spe- 
cies is variable and nonconclusive (Scott and Cross- 
man 1972). 
  In Wisconsin, the white sucker is an important bait 
fish. White suckers from 76-356 mm (3-14 in) are 
used as live bait for walleyes, northern pike and 
muskellunge. In 1968, Wisconsin licensed bait deal- 
ers reported a total of 194,264 kg (428,272 lb) of suck- 
ers sold during the year. Schneberger (1972c) esti- 
mated the value of the sucker bait industry that year 
as approximately $300,000. 
  The white sucker is generally fished for by sports- 
men early in spring, with worms used as bait. They 
are also speared or dip netted; and occasionally they 
will hit wet flies or spinning lures fished near the bot- 
tom (Reece 1963). Sucker hordes during spring runs 
are especially vulnerable to spearing or netting. 
  The flesh of the white sucker is white, sweet, and 
good tasting, although not quite as firm as that of 
most sport species. White sucker meat is a delicacy 
when smoked. Sucker recipes, bearing such exotic 
names as "Hunters Creek Home Fried," "Tasty Fron- 
tier Fritters," "Macatawa Bake," "Waterfront Casser-


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