Northern Hogsucker

Hypentelium nigricans


Image of a northern hogsucker
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Catostomidae (suckers) in the order Cypriniformes (carps, minnows, and loaches)


A medium-sized, slender-bodied sucker with a large, square head. The head is concave between eyes. The lips are highly protrusable and covered with bumps. The mouth is at the tip of the snout, on the bottom. The eye is much closer to the rear edge of the gill cover than it is to the tip of the snout. There are usually 4 dark crossbars. The tail is forked.


Total length: 8 to 15 inches; maximum about 17 inches.

Habitat and conservation

One of the most abundant and widely distributed stream fishes in the Ozarks. Inhabits permanent streams with moderate to swift current, clear water, and a gravel or rubble bottom. Usually found in riffles, also found in pools with current. This species’ coloration makes it almost invisible when in rests on a gravel stream bed.


An energetic feeder, overturning rocks and stirring up the bottom as it forages for immature aquatic insects and other bottom life with its fleshy, sucking lips.

imae of Northern Hogsucker distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Abundant and widely distributed in Ozarks. Range extends northeastward from the Ozarks into prairie tributaries of the upper Mississippi River. Also found in Moniteau Creek (Moniteau County) and Cedar Creek (Boone and Callaway counties).


A nongame fish. Sometimes called "hog molly" and "box head."

Life cycle

Individuals can live for 11 years.

Human connections

This fish is seldom taken on a baited hook but may be caught by gigging, snagging, and snaring. It's a less desirable food fish than other suckers, since much of its bulk is made up of the bony head, so there is less usable meat.

Ecosystem connections

Other fishes, especially the smallmouth bass, longear sunfish, and various minnows, commonly follow foraging hogsuckers to feed on the small organisms exposed by the hogsuckers' energetic rooting.