Hornyhead Chub (Nocomis biguttatus)

Hornyhead Chub (Nocomis biguttatus)

The hornyhead chub is a member of the large Cyprinidae family and a fairly common stream and river resident; smaller specimens are used as bait by anglers.


The body of a hornyhead chub is slender with a rounded snout. The mouth is large, almost terminal, with a small barbel above the jaws, and it has pharyngeal (throat) teeth. The hornyhead chub has dark-edged scales, a complete lateral line, and seven anal rays. Its coloring is bluish olive on the back, yellowish with iridescent green on the sides, and whitish on the underside.

On the adult male, there is a bright red dot behind each eye; on the female, the dot is brassy colored. Yellow iridescent stripes run along the back and the sides. There is a dark caudal spot, which is darkest on juveniles, around the snout. Breeding males are colored pink with pinkish-orange fins and have many tubercles on their heads.

The hornyhead chub can be distinguished from a bull chub (Nocomis raneyi) by its shorter snout, larger eyes, and a red dot behind each eye. The bluehead chub (Nocomis leptocephalus), although strikingly similar, has no red dot behind each eye, and it has a large loop on the right side of its intestine, distinguishing it from the hornyhead.


The average size for a hornyhead chub is 8 inches, although some can grow to up to 10 inches.

Spawning behavior

The spawning season for hornyhead chub is from late May through June, when the male develops tubercles on the head. The male builds a nest from pebbles. Other kinds of fish use this nest for spawning, but the male hornyhead will ward off other fish of the same species.


The hornyhead chub is omnivorous, feeding primarily on insect larvae but also consuming small crustaceans, earthworms, and algae.

Other Names

redtail chub.


The hornyhead chub is found from New York west to Wyoming and Colorado and south to northern Arkansas; in its easternmost range in New York, it can be found in the Niagara River and several streams in the Mohawk River system, but it does inhabit the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Hudson Rivers.


This species lives in small to medium-size rivers and streams. It prefers warm, clear waters with a moderate to sluggish current, especially with a sandy, gravelly bottom and aquatic vegetation.