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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

River Carpsucker - Carpiodes carpio

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


External Links

General Description
The river carpsucker has a widespread distribution in warm-water prairie streams, rivers and reservoirs. Only a few individuals reach the largest weight of about 10 pounds. All suckers have long intestines, which is an adaptation for processing detritus and plant material in addition to the insects, snails and clams they pick up from stream and lake bottoms. The chief value of suckers is as forage and bait for sport fishes. Most fishermen believe that suckers compete with trout, but most species of fish that have evolved together as these have developed mechanisms to minimize competition. River carpsuckers are occasionally caught on hook and line.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Sides silvery, back brown to olive, underside white. Lower fins white.

Species Range
Montana Range


Western Hemisphere Range


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 1932

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

May make extensive spawning runs to larger tributary streams e.g., Marias River, Tongue River.

Reservoirs and the pools and backwaters of rivers. Spawn in larger streams with backwater areas.

Food Habits
Mostly diatoms and filamentous algae from the stream bottom, but also aquatic invertebrate larvae make up a large portion of the diet.

Downstream portions of Yellowstone River important as rearing areas. A schooling fish.

Reproductive Characteristics
Spawns May - July over vegetation along shorelines of reservoir and quiet areas of streams. Incubation: 8-15 days. Sexually mature at 2-3 yrs. Spawn peaks in June on middle Missouri River.

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Citation for data on this website:
River Carpsucker — Carpiodes carpio.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from