River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum)

A long, slender fish that is mostly gold or silver with bright red fins.

(c) MN DNR, C. Iverson

Fish of the Mississippi River


One of the surprises of fishing in the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area may be a river redhorse. Although not sought by anglers, river redhorse are a fairly common catch for those fishing the river bottom. Its bright red tail and fins distinguish it from other members of the sucker family.

River redhorse live in clear streams and rivers with sand, gravel, or rocky bottoms and are seldom found in other habitats. It is very susceptible to increased turbidity (cloudiness) and pollutants. That sensitivity probably explains its disappearance in the 1890s from the Minnesota River.

River redhorse can be found throughout the eastern United States and Canada but individual populations are disconnected from each other by uninhabitable sections of river. As a result, river redhorse are considered imperiled or vulnerable in other states such as Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan.

River redhorse specialize in eating freshwater clams, mussels, and snails which it “vacuums” off the bottom. It can eat the invasive zebra mussel, one of six North American fish that can do so.

Fascinating Facts

  • River redhorse populations appear stable and secure in the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers.
  • River redhorse are one of six redhorse species found in Minnesota.
  • River redhorse have molars in the throat used to feed on shell fish.


Key ID Features: A bright red tail is the distinguishes the river redhorse. It has a blunt nose, sickle-shaped dorsal fin, and olive brown to brownish back. A medium sized fish, it averages 12-24 inches in length and 2-4 pounds.
Present in Park: Yes
Habitat: Clean, clear rivers and streams
MN Status: Present

For Further Reading

  • Dickson, Tom. 2008. The Great Minnesota Fish Book. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, London. 154 pp.
  • NatureServe. 2013. “Moxostoma carinatum.". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2013: e.T202161A18234655”. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLS.T202161A18234655.en. Downloaded on 04 May 2017.

Last updated: November 22, 2019

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Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center.

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