Northern Hogsucker

Northern Hogsucker

This is a widespread and distinctive-looking member of the sucker family.


The northern hogsucker gets its name from its piglike appearance, particularly its head. It has a very steep forehead and long, protruding lips, bearing a strong likeness to a pig’s snout. Its head also has a concave depression between the eyes, a trait distinctive among suckers. The body is conical, with the head region much thicker than the caudal peduncle. The body is marked with four lateral bars that come together on the fish’s back to form saddles. The northern hogsucker is generally darkly pigmented on the back and lightly pigmented on the belly.


Like most suckers, the northern hogsucker preys upon many varieties of benthic organisms, the most common of which are insect larvae, small crustaceans, detritus, and algae. It feeds by disturbing the stream bottom with its large snout and sucking up organisms that it dislodges. It can often be seen with its body angled upward, tail high, nearly perpendicular to the stream bottom as it forages around larger rocks. Its small air bladder and large pectoral fins help support it in the current while feeding.


The northern hogsucker is a medium-size sucker, reaching up to 12 to 14 inches in length. Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years old, although most fish do not spawn until age 4. The northern hogsucker may live for 8 years.

Spawning behavior

Northern hogsuckers spawn in mid to late spring as the water begins to warm. They do not make long upstream migrations, as many suckers do, but spawn in pool tails, riffles, and stream margins near where they reside. Like most suckers, northern hogsuckers require clean gravel substrate for successful reproduction.

Other Names

sucker, hog sucker.


The northern hogsucker is widely distributed across central and eastern North America, occurring in the Great Lakes, Mississippi, Ohio, and some Atlantic drainages.


The northern hogsucker inhabits primarily large streams and small rivers. It is usually found in areas with high water quality and clean substrate, free of heavy siltation. It is well suited to a benthic lifestyle, remaining close to the bottom in areas of various depths and flow velocities. Adults may inhabit deep pools and runs, as they are too large to be preyed upon by bass and other predators. The young and the subadults live in faster water and in the stream margins.