The northern hog sucker is one of North America’s least attractive fish. The species is recognized by its blocky head and pattern of tan background and brownish markings along its body. Reaching lengths of 24 inches or more, the northern hog sucker is one of the largest and most abundant members of the sucker family.
The northern hog sucker’s lack of beauty is more than made up for by its physical construction. A marvel of engineering, the hog sucker’s unique head shape acts like a race car spoiler, helping to hold the fish in place even in fast moving currents. Its specialized mouth allows the fish to feed efficiently, sucking in crustaceans, aquatic insects, tiny fish, and other prey.
The northern hog sucker is associated with an unusual phenomenon. Members of the sunfish family, including longear sunfish and smallmouth bass have been observed following behind northern hog sucker. As the sucker grubs among stoves and gravel, the attending fish grabs any prey that is missed by its industrious partner. There appears to be no obvious benefit derived by the hog sucker from this partnership.