Plants and Animals

Moxostoma carinatum River redhorse

Key Characteristics

The river redhorse is one of the largest redhorses reaching lengths of 76 cm and weights over 10 lbs. Their fins are bright red in living adults. It has 12 scale rows around the caudal peduncle and usually 42 to 45 lateral line scales. The origins of the pelvic fins are anterior to the midpoint of the base of the dorsal fin.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: T - Threatened (legally protected)
Global Rank: G4 - Apparently secure
State Rank: S2 - Imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Bay 1 2019
Berrien 1 1992
Branch 1 1987
Calhoun 1 1987
Hillsdale 1 1987
Ionia 4 2006
Iosco 1 1990
Kent 3 2018
Mecosta 1 1990
Missaukee 1 1987
Newaygo 2 1990
Ottawa 2 2018
St. Clair 1 1984
St. Joseph 3 2010
Wayne 1 1984

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


River redhorse prefer medium to large rocky rivers with moderate to strong currents. They are most often associated with long, deep run habitats between 0.3 and 3 m deep. This species requires clear, unpolluted waters and is intolerant of silt and turbidity.

Specific Habitat Needs

Gravel and rubble; moderate flow needed in: Great lake, littoral, benthic; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool; Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run; River (5th-6th order), pool; River (5th-6th order), run.

Natural Community Types

  • Great lake, littoral, benthic
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run
  • River (5th-6th order), pool
  • River (5th-6th order), run

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Maintaining or establishing vegetated riparian buffers will help protect this species habitat. These are wide-ranging species, hence maintaining or establishing river connectivity is also important to this species, especially for spawning migrations.

Active Period

Spawning from third week of May to second week of June

Survey Methods


Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of October

Trap nets

Survey Period: From first week of April to fourth week of October


Survey References

  • Murphy, B.R. and D.W. Willis, eds. 1996. Fisheries Techniques, 2nd ed. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda. 732pp.

Technical References

  • Bailey, R.M., W.C. Latta, and G.R. Smith. 2004. An Atlas of Michigan Fishes. Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 192, Ann Arbor. 215p.
  • Burkhead, N.M. and R.E. Jenkins. 1991. Fishes. Pages 321-409 in K. Terwilliger. Virginia's Endangered Species: Proceedings of a Symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blackburg.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
  • Hackney, P.A., W.M. Tatum, and S.L. Spencer. 1968. Life history study of the river redhorse, M. Carinatum (Cope) in the Cahaba River, AL, with notes on the management of the species as a sport fish. Proceedings of the Southeast Association of Game Fish Commissioners. 21:324-332.
  • Jenkins, R.E. 1970. Systematic studies of the catostomid fish tribe Moxostomatini. Cornell University, Ithaca. PhD Thesis. 779pp.
  • Page, L. M. and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432pp.
  • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bulletin 184, Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa. 966pp.
  • Stagliano, D.M. 2001. Special Animal Abstract for Moxostoma carinatum (River redhorse). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 3pp.
  • Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.

More Information