Suckers

A small fish with a sucker mouth floats near the bottom of a stream bed
Juvenile longnose sucker along a stream bed

NPS/Jay Fleming

 

Suckers are bottom-dwelling fish that use ridges on their jaws to scrape flora and fauna from rocks. They are eaten by birds, bears, otters, and large cutthroat trout. Sucker species can be distinguished by their habitat:

  • Mountain sucker (Catostomus platyrhynchus): cold, fast, rocky streams and some lakes.
  • Longnose sucker (Catostomus catostomus): Yellowstone River drainage below the Grand Canyon; Yellowstone Lake and its surrounding waters (introduced). Equally at home in warm and cold waters, streams and lakes, clear and turbid waters.
  • Utah sucker (Catostomus ardens): Snake River drainage.

Concurrent with the decline in cutthroat trout is a steady, long-term decline in the introduced longnose sucker population within Yellowstone Lake. The mechanism causing this decline is unclear. Longnose suckers occur, primarily, throughout the shallowwater, littoral zones of the lake, and spawn along the lake shore and in tributaries during the spring. Predation by lake trout during the summer is not significant but it is possible that consumption of suckers by lake trout is higher during winter when water temperatures are extremely cold, allowing lake trout to exploit shallow water habitats where the suckers reside.

 
An underwater view of a spotted fish with a red slash on its neck and side swims above pebbles

Fish and Aquatic Species

Native fish underpin natural food webs and have great local economic significance.

Young cutthroat trout in a shallow creek

Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences Program

Explore the National Park Service science program for fish and aquatic species.

Three spotted fish with red jaws underwater

Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

Yellowstone cutthroat trout are the most widespread native fish in the park.

A spotted fish with red belly laying on grass

Westslope Cutthroat Trout

Historically the most abundant and widely distributed subspecies of cutthroat trout throughout the West.

A gray fish with ark spots and dark stripes on fins

Arctic Grayling

Arctic grayling dwell entirely in streams.

A silvery fish laying on a gray rock

Mountain Whitefish

Lives in rivers and streams with deep pools, clear and clean water.

A gray fish with dark sports and striped fins underwater

Mottled Sculpin

Mottled sculpin live in shallow, cold water throughout Yellowstone except the Yellowstone River above Lower Falls and in Yellowstone Lake.

A longnose dace floating above the sandy river bottom

Minnows

Yellowstone’s minnows are small fish living in a variety of habitats and eating a variety of foods.

Angler fishing in Yellowstone

Fishing

Cast your line for 16 species of fish.

Zebra mussel infestation

Clean, Drain, & Dry

Learn how you can help prevent damaging aquatic invasive species from reaching Yellowstone.

 

Resources

2009. Yellowstone cutthroat trout: Conserving a heritage population in Yellowstone Lake. Mammoth Hot Springs, WY: National Park Service.

Baril, L.M., D.W. Smith, T. Drummer, and T.M. Koel. 2013. Implications of cutthroat trout declines for breeding opsreys and bald eagles at Yellowstone Lake. Journal of Raptor Research 47(3): 234–245.

Bigelow, P.E., T.M. Koel, D. Mahony, B. Ertel, B. Rowdon, and S.T. Olliff. 2003. Protection of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Edited by US Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Fort Collins, CO: National Park Service, Water Resources Division.

Gresswell, R.E. and J.D. Varley. 1988. Effects of a century of human influence on the cutthroat trout of Yellowstone Lake. In R.E. Gresswell, ed., Status and management of interior stocks of cutthroat trout, 45–52. Vol. Symposium 4. American Fisheries Society.

Gresswell, R.E., W.J. Liss, and G.L. Larson. 1994. Lifehistory organization of Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri) in Yellowstone Lake. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 51(S1):298–309.

Gresswell, R.E. 1995. Yellowstone cutthroat trout. In M. K. Young, ed., Conservation assessment for inland cutthroat trout, 36–54. Fort Collins, CO: US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station.

Heckmann, R. 1994. Cutthroats and parasites: Yellowstone Lake’s complex community of fish and companion organisms. Yellowstone Science 2(3).

Kerkvliet, J., C. Nowell, and S. Lowe. The economic value of a predator: Yellowstone trout. In A. P. Curlee, A. Gillesberg and D. Casey, ed., Greater Yellowstone predators: Ecology and conservation in a changing landscape: Proceedings of the third biennial conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 143–150. Yellowstone National Park, WY: Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative and Yellowstone National Park.

Koel, T.M., P.E. Bigelow, P.D. Doepke, B.D. Ertel, and D.L. Mahony. 2005. Nonnative lake trout result in Yellowstone cutthroat trout decline and impacts to bears and anglers. Fisheries 30(11):10–19.

Koel, T.M., P.E. Bigelow, P.D. Doepke, B.D. Ertel, and D.L. Mahoney. 2006. Conserving Yellowstone cutthroat trout for the future of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: Yellowstone’s Aquatic Sciences Program. Yellowstone Science 14(2).

Koel, T.M., D.L. Mahony, K.L. Kinnan, C. Rasmussen, C.J. Hudson, S. Murcia, and B.L. Kerans. 2006. Myxobolus cerebralis in native cutthroat trout of the Yellowstone Lake ecosystem. Journal of Aquatic Animal Health 18(3):157–175.

May, B.E., W. Urie, and B.B. Shepard. 2003. Range-wide status of Yellowstone cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri): 2001, Edited by US Forest Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit. Bozeman, MT.

National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park. 2010. Native Fish Conservation Plan / Environmental Assessment, Edited by Department of the Interior. Yellowstone Center for Resources.

Reinhart, D.P., S.T. Olliff, and K.A. Gunther. Managing bears and developments on cutthroat spawning streams in Yellowstone National Park. In A.P. Curlee, A. Gillesberg and D. Casey, ed., Greater Yellowstone predators: Ecology and conservation in a changing landscape: Proceedings of the third biennial conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 161–169. Yellowstone National Park, WY: Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative and Yellowstone National Park.

Varley, J.D. and P. Schullery. 1995. The Yellowstone Lake crisis: Confronting a lake trout invasion: a report to the director of the National Park Service. Yellowstone National Park, WY: National Park Service, Yellowstone Center for Resources.

Last updated: April 19, 2017

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