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.
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.
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Last updated: November 22, 2019