Appalachia Appalachian Dialect Fishing

Hog Fish – Hog Molly – Hog Sucker

Photo of Bob Weekley and his father fishing in West Virginia

Photo provided by Bob Weekley


A few days ago when I posted the fish vocabulary words, I came across an interesting entry in the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English:

hog fish, hog molly, hog sucker noun A scavenging fish, the logperch (Percina caprodes), most often known as hog sucker in the mountains. Same as white sucker.

1849 Lanham Allegheny Mts 65 I took the liberty of doubting the gentleman’s word, and subsequently found out that the people of this section of country call the legitimate pickerel the “salmon,” the black bass the “black trout,” the mullet the “redhorse,” and a deformed sucker a “hog-fish.” 1939 Hall Coll. Waldens Creek TN The creek was full of fish-bass, white suckers, sliversides, red horses, hog mollies in the creek. (R. L. Fox) 1940 Berrey Sthn Mt Dialect 52 I disgust hawg-mollies and mounting oysters. 1968 DARE = freshwater fish not good to eat (Brasstown NC). 1976 Garber Mountain-ese 43 Sol is down at the crick tryin’ to grab-hook hog suckers. 1995-97 Montgomery Coll. hog fish (Ledford); = a common brown sucker encountered in the larger creeks or in the rivers, often when fishing for trout. It was considered a ‘trash’ fish not worth keeping (Ellis); hog molly small catfish with a large head (Shields); hog sucker (Adams, Jones, Ledford, Shields); = a common scavenger fish in mountain streams (Cardewell); fish with a flat head, big eyes and a snoutlike mouth (Hooper).  [DARE esp South, South Midland]

The first quote from 1849 is what jumped out at me. It made me think of the ways Appalachians (and others) are often misunderstood by people who aren’t familiar with our culture but think they know it better than we do. And of course the Brasstown reference pleased me. I can confirm that 40 years later-hog suckers still aren’t a fish that’s eaten in Brasstown. Hog sucker is what the ugly fish is called here.



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  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    November 5, 2019 at 6:52 am

    I don’t remember who told us of a recipe for Hog Suckers and/or Redhorse which were common in the Little T when I was a young’un. You clean the fish by removing interals and washing the slime off which was left on the fish after scaling. Find a clean Oak Board slightly larger than your fish, tack the fish to the board and bake at 300 degrees for two hours. Remove the fish from the board and discard the fish and eat the board. I’ve never tried this recipe nor any others for either of these fish but I seriously have heard of people who use Stepnen Keith’s recipe using the grinder and making patties. Some swear they taste amazingly like Salmon Patties.

  • Reply
    Steven Keith
    August 18, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    I remember, when I was in my teens,that my father would catch these suckers,bring them home and clean them run them thru a hand crank meat grinder and fix them like you would fix salmon patties. With fried taters,and white beans and old fashion corn bread. Dam what’s meal

  • Reply
    Mel H.
    July 30, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    How about the “Hornyhead”, or the

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    B.Ruth-The part of the Little Tennessee that Stephen, Bill Burnett and I grew up on is way above any dams so the water flow stays pretty much constant throughout the day. If you know the river you don’t get your boat stuck in the shoals and shallows. If you get into some of the rough places you might tip over. Especially if you were already tipsy when you got in the boat.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    You know the hog that inspires the names for all these fish is an ugly animal and a scavenger too. Do we have second thoughts about eating him? No, we eat almost every part. And his rendered fat to cook and flavor many other foods.
    What do you call a bacon flavored lollipop?

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    July 30, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Down here we have a hog snapper, a salt water fish. I don’t remember hearing about any of the hog fish you mention. Please enter me for Jim’s book. I plan on taking up fly fishing when I get back to the mountains.

  • Reply
    Madge @ TheViewFromRightHere
    July 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Love those terms…

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    July 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Tipper, and Uncle Al….
    Never heard of a goggle-eye!…
    However, one time when I jerked a fish inside out, to set the hook, my husband said he saw its eyegoggles bulgeing out its sides.
    He also told me to not get so excited and to calm down to set the hook, that it real hard to scale them when they were inside outards….!!!
    Thanks, Tipper

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    July 30, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    We used to fish on the Little T…
    Before we married, our kin and my husband, boarded the boat…We drifted down the little T using large corn kernels for bait…I can’t remember catching but one trout…The memory was before we decided to head back, the water went down and the men had to get out and drag us back up the T between pools and rocks, where we launched…Another time after the children were born we went with my parents, picnic, life jackets for the kids. poles and corn,wormsm, etc. We took off the kids jackets, to eat our picnic…
    The water was very swift…as you can imagine my son threw in or dropped his little hammer toy…he reached in to grab it and over he went…bobbing…I screamed and in I jumped over him dragging him to the bank…He thought it was funny, I thought I was a gonner…I made him eat with his life jacket on…They learned to swim that very summer..but swift water is still no match, with limbs in and hanging over the edge, even if the child is a good swimmer…
    PS…I did a research on all the fish of the Little T…Mollybottems, several darters, catfish, trout, on and on..Several sucker fish, named by hog molly and hog sucker…They ain’t too ugly, but the Mollybottoms, is a spotted big mouth ugly fish…You know what, we need these scavengers, that eat mussels, snails, algae and most of all decaying leaves. Imagine if all our mountain creeks and streams didn’t have those bottem feeders that like rotten leaves…ewwwww!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 30, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Tipper–Hog suckers are, as Stephen Ammons points out, common in the Little Tennessee as well as most mountain streams of much size. I’d never heard of eating them here in the mountains, but as Mary Shipman rightly points out, elsewhere they are prized fare. Most of the spearing, snaring, or gigging of them is done during their spring spawning runs when they move into small feeder streams. Properly prepared they are wonderful, and the bones (which they are full of) just sort of melt away. Unfortunately, I’ve only eaten them a couple of times and don’t know the secret of preparation although I suspect it involving scoring the body at several places and deep frying. I know the sweet, white flesh is delicious.
    Jim Casada
    P. S. I was part of a shocking team that sampled two places on Deep Creek last year and we brought up a goodly number of hog suckers, but nothing like the numbers I saw as a boy and young man. Otters have played hell with them as they have with trout.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2012 at 10:12 am

    We must not have any of those hog fish in these parts. I’ve never heard of them, but we could be calling them another name. Regardless, they sound too ugly to eat!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    July 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

    These are certainly descriptive names, there is a visual attached to each one. I am not so familiar with fresh water fish as I am with salt, but I don’t think I would like that one either.

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    July 30, 2012 at 8:11 am

    We just used the general term “sucker” and no we never ate or did much else with them. It is interesting how differently other parts of the country refer to fish. Anyone heard of a goggle-eye?

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    July 30, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Hog suckers, are considered nongame fish here in Missouri. and are prized fish on a gigging trip.
    Cleaned rolled in seasoned cornmeal and deep fried on the bank, with hush puppies and potato wedges! Yum!
    The first night of gigging seaason here is always a big celebration, fishing after dark in the lighted boats, a big gathering of family and friends, a little picking and singing and a lot of fun.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 30, 2012 at 6:12 am

    We used to catch fish with circular bloodshot rings or sores on their sides. Kinda like teenagers get on their necks. We said “a sucker has been ahold of it,” and would put it back. The big headed, small bodied catfish your description calls a hog molly, we called a mud cat. Ours sometimes had big bodies with huge heads. Mud cats are good to eat if you keep them in clean fresh water for a few days. Blue cats and channel cats are both beautiful animals coming out of the water and look even better floating in a pan of grease. All three have stingers on the sides of their heads and will stab you if you don’t know how to handle them. They say if you do get stuck by one, you can rub the slime off their belly onto the wound and it will take the pain away. I’ve tried it and it works! I saw Clayton DeHart get stung by a big catfish. He had on rubber boots and the stinger went through it and into the side of his foot. He couldn’t get the boot off and he couldn’t get the fish off the side of his foot. He was hollering for help and hopping around with a fish stuck on his boot. The sight would have been comical except for the terrible pain he was in. Somebody else had to yank out the stinger for him. He put the belly slime on it too and the pain eased after a while.

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    July 30, 2012 at 4:53 am

    The Hog Sucker and the Red Horse are common fish in the little Tennessee but I have never heard of anyone trying to eat them. As a matter of fact I was always told not to use the Sucker for cut bait to fish for catfish because they wouldn’t touch them.

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