Hormone Could Make Suckers the Baitfish of
July 17, 1997
An experimental hormone could turn
white or spotted suckers into the finny crop of choice for many baitfish
Today, 7-inch-long golden shiners are the staple baitfish for very large
sportfish. But they take two years to grow to maturity. Scientists with
USDAs Agricultural Research Service
say that white or spotted suckers will reach maturity in one year, increasing
profits through speedier reproduction.
The problem: Suckers prefer to lay their eggs in running water, such as
rivers. Scientists say dosing the fish with an artificial copy of the hormone
called human chorionic gonadatropin (HCG) encourages the fish to spawn
regardless of setting, allowing farmers to raise the fish in ponds.
In a laboratory study, ARS scientists
injected HCG into mature suckers, inducing them to reproduce after being held
captive a year. HCG is synthetically produced for medical uses by the biotech
industry. The U.S. Food and Drug
Administration has approved its use in fish only for experimental purposes.
FDA would require further studies before considering its approval for use on
food or brood fish.
White suckers grow best in cool waters north of Arkansas and are good bait
for striped bass, muskies, black bass and other large game fish.
The white sucker cannot be introduced into some states, such as Florida,
where it is not considered a native species. So, spotted suckers are a second
option. Their native range includes Florida and all other southern states east
of the Rocky Mountains where Florida strain largemouth bass are found.
In Arkansas, the major bait-producing state, the industry markets mainly
golden shiners and fathead minnows with a value of about $47 million annually.
Scientific contact: Gerald M. Ludwig, USDA-ARS,
National Aquaculture Research
Center, Stuttgart, Ark., phone (870) 673-4483, fax (870) 673-7710.