Shorthead redhorse
Moxostoma macrolepidotum (Le Sueur, 1817)

member of the Sucker Family (Catostmidae)

St. Louis River, Carlton County, Minnesota 17 September 1997

photo by Konrad Schmidt

photo by William Schmid














What's In a Name?
Shorthead redhorse a.k.a. Northern redhorse: "shorthead" refers to this species small head; "redhorse" is a reference to the bright red fin color of several species including this one.

Moxostoma (Mox-aus´-toe-mah) means a "sucking type mouth" in Greek
macrolepidotum (macro-lep-ee-doe´-tum) means "large scaled" in Greek


    Where Do They Live?
Shorthead redhorse are found in lakes, streams, and rivers throughout the state. They are especially abundant in Lake of the Woods and are the only redhorse species that occurs in the Lake Superior drainage. They prefer water ranging from clear to moderately turbid (cloudy) with bottoms of sand, gravel, and rock. It is common to find this fish living with silver redhorse, blackside darters, smallmouth bass, golden redhorse, hornyhead chubs, and central stonerollers.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
The size of shorthead redhorse varies considerably across the state. Lengths of 300-400 mm (12-16 in) are common with weights up to 1.8 kg (2 lbs). Occasionally fish over 500 mm (20 in) and 2 kg (4.2 lbs) are found. Shortheads typically live for 8-10 years, but on occasion they live to 12 or more years.

    What Do They Eat?
Of all the members of the sucker family in Minnesota, shortheads are the most insectivorous (insect eating). Their main diet is insect larvae that they glean from the stream bottom. They also consume fair numbers of waterfleas, copepods, and sideswimmers, along with a smattering of worms and other small invertebrates. Unlike other suckers, they eat very little plant matter or detritus (decaying plant matter).

What Eats Them?
Young shorthead redhorses are a common item for piscivorous (fish-eating) fish like northern pike, walleyes, and smallmouth bass. Larger northern pike and muskellunge prey on adult shortheads. Predation by humans is minimal, although smaller shortheads are harvested for bait and they are fished for by some anglers.


How Do They Reproduce?
Shorthead redhorse spawn as early as late April in southern Minnesota and as late as early June in the north. Water temperatures are usually 8-16° C (47-61° F) at this time. Male shortheads migrate upstream and congregate on clean, shallow, gravel riffles where they wait for the females. When a female comes to rest on the gravel, she is usually joined by two males. With a male on either side of her, she starts to lay eggs while the males fertilize them. The eggs then are spread around by the current and the movements of the fish. They settle to the bottom and are abandoned by the parents. Depending on her size, a single female may lay 13,00-45,00 eggs during the spawning period. The embryos hatch in 7-10 days, depending on water temperature, and begin feeding shortly afterward.


Conservation and Management
The shorthead redhorse is the most common of Minnesota's six species of redhorse. It has no special conservation status and is not actively managed. It is not a designated sportfish, but it does bite well on a variety of bottom baits. Its flesh is very tasty but contains many small bones.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt and William D. Schmid
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002