Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 21:14
Updated date: 3/13/17
Moxostoma macrolepidotum (Shorthead Redhorse)


The shorthead redhorse is a beautiful, striking fish.  With chrome-silver scales and blood-red fins, it cuts an impressive figure when you see one finning in clear water. 


Other Names:  Redfin, Des Moines Plunger, Bigscale Sucker, Redfin Sucker, Red Sucker, Northern Redhorse, Common Redhorse, Smallmouth Redhorse, Smallhead Redhorse





The shorthead redhorse is a slender, coarse-scaled sucker with a bright red tail fin. The head is shorter than other redhorse, its dorsal fin is strongly curved inward, having 12-13 or sometimes 14 soft rays. The upper lip often has a "pea-shaped" swelling in the middle. The rear margin of the lower lip is nearly straight with the lip folds divided into prominent papillae. The pharyngeal teeth are thin, comb-like with about 53 per arch. The lateral line is complete with 41 to 45 scales. Scale count around the caudal peduncle is 12.




Moderate to swift current over sand and gravel substrate is preferred habitat for the shorthead redhorse. This sucker is adaptable to high turbidity, but it occurs most frequently in clear to slightly turbid water in the deeper stretches of the channel. Formerly named the northern redhorse (Moxostoma aureouim), this species was renamed to the present nomenclature in 1973. Its wide range is probably due to its adaptability to changing environmental conditions and different habitats. The shorthead redhorse is abundant in the Mississippi River, common in the interior rivers and uncommon to rare in the natural lakes and the Missouri River drainage. It loves to feed in rocky riffles.




The shorthead redhorse is one of the most common species of redhorse. It is a quick-water bottom feeder, using it's pointed snout to suck nymphs and scuds from the gaps between rocks. Shortheads over 16 inches are rare, so medium-light tackle is best - a long spinning rod spooled with 4-8 pound test or a six-weight flyrod would be appropriate. When feeding in rocky riffles, these fish do not seem to use their sense of sight much, so flyfishing in these situations can be difficult. Look for shortheads in sandy areas and you will do better with flies. Shortheads have very small mouths, so hooks in the 8-10 range are best, and baits should be comparably small. Shorthead Redhorse are excellent game fish and always put up a good fight for their size.


Range Map

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MN, WI, and Upper MI
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Welland, Ontario