Species of the Week: White Sucker

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Corey's picture
Species of the Week: White Sucker
<h3> Welcome to the first installment of Species of the Week!</h3> <p>This (weekly or biweekly) system allows the community to add more comprehensive information to the species pages.&nbsp; Everyone should post their best information, tactics, and descriptive information for the species.&nbsp; Pictures of average-sized, juvenile, and jumbo specimens are all required.&nbsp; Each species should have at least one habitat photo (This means getting creative)!&nbsp;</p> <h3> This week&#39;s species is the White Sucker, <em>Catostomus commersoni</em></h3> <p><em>Click <a href="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/species/22"><strong>HERE</strong></a> for the current White Sucker page.</em></p> <p><img alt="" height="172" src="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/sites/default/files/White%20Sucker100.jpg" width="588" /></p> <p>Please share your experiences with this species below!</p> <p>For a habitat image, I think a photograph of a good white sucker stream, showing riffle habitat for spawning, would be a good addition!&nbsp; If anyone has any unique approaches to catching this fish, we&#39;d love to hear about it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Jknuth's picture
Here is a video of some

Here is a video of some spawning white suckers. 


A typical wisconsin river during the spawning period

A typical wisconsin stream late summer

Muskymags's picture
My installment

My favorite way to fish for White Suckers is with a flyrod.  In the spring they are a sucker for a well drifted fly and you can fair catch quite a few.


My largest to date caught on a fly in a Trout stream


My favorite type of fly for White Suckers are size 14-8 nymph or nematode imitations.  This red one works really well for them.



This is one of my favorite spots for them.  Its a bend on a small river up north that has a very long hole maxing out at about 6 FOW.  Every spring they're stacked in there.  Its remote and beautiful!

Mike B
Mike B's picture
For me, fishing for white

For me, fishing for white suckers means spring fishing and invariably involves flyfishing. This occurs during the spawning running in the first week of June. After that, they, along with longnose suckers -- the only other sucker species we have in the Northwest Territories -- seem to disperse into deeper water, usually not be seen again until the following spring. The lone exception in my experience, are the white suckers that occur in the largish Yellowknife River but I have not been able to catch these. The waters they inhabit there are too fast to drift nymphs along the bottom, and I have never been able to convince a white sucker to take an earthworm while bottom fishing

Below is a picture of the spot where I catch them in the spring. An acquaintance who no longer lives in the North showed me how to catch them here some years ago. At right of the beam (downstream) is a riffle where they spawn by the hundred and rarely am I able to get one to bite there. Left of the beam is a deeper pool where the suckers seem to stage after spawning and that's where I fish for them.

The window is very small -- only about a week -- and I usually hike out there once or twice after work to fish under the midnight sun (these pictures were taken around 11 at night!). The night these pictures were taken was a great night and I caught a half dozen fish by slowly drifting a green scud along the bottom with a small split shot weight about a foot above the fly. I usually don't see the take because the pool is a little too deep but when I do, I can observe the fly bouncing along the bottom toward a pod of fish. Usually, one or two or all of them advance toward the fly. They don't always take though, and usually just follow it a couple feet as it drifts out of range. Last year, the fishing was a little tough and I only landed one at this spot.

Occasionally, I catch a white sucker on something as outlandish as a Mepps spinner or a soft body lure cast for walleye. What makes this fishing even more exciting is that among the suckers, are some of the largest lake whitefish you will ever see around here. They're after the eggs, of course. Strangely, the whitefish won't bite the scud although they like it just fine when I cast it on the Yellowknife River. I have to switch to a small drab little nymph that floats higher in the water to catch whitefish, and the suckers won't bite it.

Muskymags, I like your fly and have used one similar to it before with some success.

mike b

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
The White Sucker. 

The White Sucker.  I call em old reliable.  When nothing else is biting on a cold winter stream, seems like you can always get a Whitey to bite a bottom rigged crawler.   Over the last few years I've even fished for them all winter long, with last year being my best ever, catching them in every month of winter in open water.  It helps alot having these warmer winters we have been having.  In years past, these streams were simply unfishable because they were locked solid with ice.  But I'm not complaining, its a great break from ice fishing, and always cool to break out the long rods in the dead of winter.   On the stream that I do most of my winter time angling on, White Suckers dominate the catch most months of the year.  Maybe thats why the fish are so active during winter, because there is a ton of them?  This fishing is still kind of in its beginning stages on my end.  Still need to experiment more on other bodies of water, and need to ice fish for them more.  I find them to be in wintering areas that consist of deep holes and moderate to slow current.  One warmer days during winter, these fish will work up onto the head of a riffle and feed just like its spring time.  Here is a pic of an average White Sucker caught from my favorite winter fishery:




Then there are those lake run beasts.  These are the largest White Suckers a guy might encounter.  My experience with Lake Superior lake run Whites has been excellent over the years.  I have had the luck of running into some real slobs while targeting other species, mainly Longnose Suckers.  In my opinion, the largest White Suckers in the state are living in Lake Superior.  Im gonna be putting in time this spring for a giant like this one that Outdoors4life caught last spring on a Lake Superior trib:

And this was my biggest of that same trip.  As you can see, his fish had a good pound or two on mine.  I would estimate his fish somewhere between 5 and 6 lbs.  I'd love to try to target a truely huge White Sucker.


DavidG's picture
Even though I have never

Even though I have never caught one,  this is a really cool idea.  I usually like to learn about the kind of fish I am chasing from other ANGLERS and from an angling perspective more so than just what info is on paper.  Great idea!  looking forward to this


DavidG Blog:  http://www.boundless-pursuit.com

Eli's picture
To me, catching this species

To me, catching this species signals the end of winter and the begining of fall. I have never caught one in the summer or through the ice. A very strong fighter on light tackle.

Here's a male in full spawning colours.




Cast_and_Blast's picture
Nice variation Eli. 

Nice variation Eli. 


This is the best I have on the White Sucker.


Here is a nice comparison pic with a Longnose Sucker.

fiddleFish's picture
Winter Whites

White suckers actively feed throughout the winter and can be readily caught during the hard water season.  When you need a break from staring at flashers and spring bobbers, head out to the ol' sucker hole and pitch your tent over a big-screen sized hole where you can enjoy watching Fish TV for hours.

I've had days where there has literally been a steady procession of whites slowly sweeping the bottom as they work their way upstream. 


They can be easily enticed to take your bait if they are actively feeding.

And winter whites are deluxe eating. 

Corey's picture
Species Page for White Sucker

Species Page for White Sucker has been updated!  If you think of any more information, please feel free to share!

Deftik's picture
Well as far as white suckers

Well as far as white suckers goes I think this is now the premiere information hub, gonna get ridiculous with more fish added every week!

Outdoors4life's picture
2 Thumbs Up!!

That is what we need! Nice job. Many examples of the different sizes and color variations. Lots of info broken up to make it easier to read. Ice, Fly, Traditional baits.


What is next?

It is all perspective!

Acer Home Inspections

Deftik's picture
Not sure how good this came

Not sure how good this came out it was done and posted via phone, but this is a rig I use for suckers it keeps the bait low enough to the ground while putting the sinker near snags. Sorry for the late submission even if it doesn't get used interested parties can use the thread if they are attempting their 1st sucker.