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Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin

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

Page 609

Sucker Family-Catostomidae      609 
   Midsagittal section through the head of the bigmouth buffalo, showing
the small mouth 
   and pharyngeal cavities 
   Although suckers have been harvested by commercial fishermen in all 
Wisconsin drainages for many years, the small amounts they receive in 
price hardly pay the cost of handling. In the Wisconsin waters of Lake 
Michigan, sucker production in 1974 was 141,400 kg, which was valued 
at $8,787 (Wis. Dep. Nat. Resour. 1976c); the waters of Green Bay with 
85% of the harvest are the principal areas of production, and most suck-
ers are taken incidentally to perch, whitefish, and alewives. In Lake Su-
perior, the commercial catch for 1974 was 24,000 kg, and in the Missis- 
sippi River it was 21,300 kg. 
  The catches noted above reflect the poor market conditions for suck- 
ers. Potentially, suckers could provide substantially more commercial 
production than the figures reported, since sucker populations are at 
high levels, with strong spawning runs and consistent year class 
strength. It has been estimated that 1.4-1.8 million kilograms of suckers
could be taken annually from the American side of the Great Lakes. In 
Wisconsin, thousands of kilograms could be harvested yearly from many 
of our inland lakes and streams without harming the seed stock. 
  In Wisconsin consideration should be given to elevating the suckers to
the level of sport fishes. Large suckers are spectacular fighters when 
hooked, and on the table they pose excellent fare. They are a notable 
resource which has been unjustly overshadowed by sport fish, some of 
which are inferior in fighting and eating qualities. 
  Unfortunately, the sucker's image as a "trash fish" and "rough
has not been corrected by our public agencies, and the public persists in
the view that suckers are valueless, tasteless, nuisance fish. The fact is
that, as fish flesh goes, suckers are among the largest and tastiest of 
fishes. They have other desirable qualities: they are low in cholesterol,
high in protein, and can be refrigerated for long periods without much 

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