Why It’s Called “Sucker Brook”

By Paul Lauenstein

Bunch of SuckersA clear stream flows into Lake Massapoag. It’s called Sucker Brook. You can find it on Massapoag Ave. right beside the arch leading to the community center.

One sunny afternoon in mid-April I stopped by Sucker Brook and witnessed the annual spawning migration of white suckers. Adult white suckers are fish about a foot and a half long, weighing two or three pounds, and sporting a reddish stripe along their sides.

They migrate from the lake up Sucker Brook every year in mid-April to spawn. Like salmon, they fight their way upstream against a strong current until they reach a suitable stretch of stony streambed. Then they align their bodies alongside other individuals of the opposite sex. Fins extended, they shudder and release their eggs, or milt. The fertilized eggs settle into crevices between the stones, where they are oxygenated by the current. After they hatch, the fry drift back down to the lake, where they take up their life struggle of finding food and dodging predators.

Suckers play an important role in the ecology of Lake Massapoag. Young suckers are food for game fish and birds. Adult suckers are scavengers, cleaning the lake bottom like vacuum cleaners.

The streams flowing into Lake Massapoag typically dry up in summer. Sucker Brook is the only stream that still flows year-round, but it is no longer a sure bet that there will be enough flow every spring to support the annual sucker spawning run. If we wish to maintain the complex web of life that surrounds and sustains us, we must find ways to achieve a balance between our own needs and those of the ecosystems we inhabit.

Single Sucker