Nocomis biguttatus
Hornyhead Chub

Hornyhead Chub

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Nocomis, a native American name given the genus by Gerard (perhaps from the Ojibwe, nôkomiss, "grandmother"; used by Longfellow in the "Song of Hiawatha")
  • biguttatus, from the Latin, "two spotted"
  • Common Name from numerous spiny tubercles developed during the spawning period, on the head of males, from the snout to well behind the eyes.
  • Other common names include: Chub, Horned Chub, Hornyhead, Indian Chub, Jerker, Redtail Chub, River Chub


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
    • Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Ostariophysi
        • Order Cypriniformes, minnows and suckers
          • Family Cyprinidae, carps and minnows
            • Genus Nocomis, hornyhead chubs
  • Until recently, listed under the genus Hybopsis. The sub-genus Nocomis was then raised to genus status and is now considered more closely related to Semotilus than to Hybopsis.


  • A large minnow of creeks and small rivers
  • Length to 12"
    • males typically 6"-9"
    • females smaller
  • Weight
  • Coloration
    • dark lateral band from eye to base of tail, terminating in a prominent black spot
    • olive brown on the back above lateral band
    • silvery on the sides below lateral band
    • creamy belly
    • distinctive red patch behind each eye in breeding males
    • pinkish-bluish wash with prominent white tubercles on head in breeding males
    • orange-colored dorsal and anal fins
  • Body
    • stout bodied
    • dorsal fin of 8 rays, set slightly behind the pelvic fin
    • pectoral fins of 14 to 16 rays
    • pelvic fins of 8 rays
    • anal fin of 7 rays
    • complete lateral line of 38 to 48 large scales
    • scales along the back and upper sides may appear cross hatched.
  • Head
    • large, slightly oblique, and terminal mouth
    • distinct barbel on the posterior tip of the jaw
    • hooked pharyngeal teeth on broad arches in a 1, 4-4, 1 pattern


  • Distinguished from the similar Creek Chub by:
    • barbel at the posterior end of the jaw
    • complete lateral line of 38 to 48 large scales (49-64 in Creek Chub).
    • anal fin of 7 rays (8 in Creek Chub).


  • Wyoming and the Dakotas, east through the Great Lakes to the Hudson, and south to Oklahoma.


  • Clear, small to medium-sized streams with sand and gravel bottoms, near riffle areas but away from the current, especially in areas of aquatic vegetation.
  • Rare in lakes, though occasionally found there near mouths of small creeks


  • Young initially feed on zooplankton, switching to fish, crayfish, aquatic insects, algae, and plants as adults.



  • Used occasionally as a bait fish.


  • Spawning occurs from late May through June. A nest is constructed by the male which moves materials away from an area 1'-2' in diameter, then piles pebbles in the cavity to a height of 6". At spawning, several hundred eggs drop between the pebbles in the nest, protected from predation by the surrounding gravel.
  • Although the male hornyhead will drive off others of the same species, it tolerates other kinds of fish. Blacknose dace, common shiner, and stoneroller minnows, among others, will also use these nests for spawning.
  • During the spawning period, males develop spiny tubercles on the head from the snout to well behind the eyes which give rise to the common name.



Boreal border

Last updated on 15 October 1999