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Dark olive-green back and sides yellow or reddish below; dark vertical bars usually present on sides; chin and gill covers bright blue; black, flexible tip at rear of gill cover; seldom exceed 8 inches.


Bluegill Distribution

This fish is not commonly found in the western Iowa streams but in occasionally found in most eastern Iowa interior rivers. It is very abundant in the backwaters and sloughs of the Mississippi River.


Aquatic insects, small fish and crayfish.

State Record

3 lbs 2 oz; 12.88 in. - Farm Pond, Madison County, July 1986 - Phil Algreen, Earlham, Iowa

Expert Tip

Use small hooks (#8) with a long shank when fishing with live bait for Bluegill.


Bluegill is the most abundant and widespread member of the sunfish family in Iowa. It is found in nearly all waters of the state but is far more abundant in lakes and ponds than is streams and rivers. 

Bluegill reproduce over a wide time period, usually from late May to early August in Iowa, but peak spawning occurs in early June. Water temperatures during the spawning season are 70 to 80 degrees F. Males construct nests in water from 1 to 4 feet in depth along the shoreline, over diverse substrate materials, but sand and gravel are preferred. The nests are saucer-shaped depressions about 1 to 2 feet in diameter. From the shore, the colony of nests resembles "elephant tracks". The pugnacious males often build nests, almost touching adjoining nests. It is quite common to find as many as 50 nests in a 75-foot radius. Most nests are only 2 to 3 inches deep, and the male fish keep them fanned free of silt.

Growth of bluegill varies widely with population density. High population density retards growth while the opposite occurs with low density. Bluegill will reach 1 to 2 inches in length on the average in their first year of life. Most bluegill in Iowa attain lengths of 3.5, 4.5, and 6 inches in their second, third, and fourth year of life. Bluegills mature during the second year under suitable conditions, but slower growth will delay maturity to the third year. Bluegill attain a length of up to 12 inches and weigh up to 2 pounds, but most bluegill caught by anglers seldom exceed 8 inches. The Iowa record bluegill was 12 7/8 inches long, weighed 3 pounds, 2 ounces and was caught in a farm pond.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

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Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Big Spirit Lake Dickinson 1m N Spirit Lake 5684.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
West Okoboji Lake Dickinson northwest edge of Arnolds Park 3847.00
Lake Odessa Louisa 5 miles east of Wapello 3000.00
East Okoboji Lake Dickinson east edge of Okoboji 1835.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Five Island Lake Palo Alto north edge of Emmetsburg 973.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 889.00
Three Mile Lake Union 3 miles northwest of Afton 880.00
Big Creek Lake Polk 2 miles north of Polk City 814.00
DeSoto Bend Harrison 5 miles west of Missouri Valley 811.00
Lake Manawa Pottawattamie Southwest edge of Council Bluffs 747.00
Little River Watershed Lake Decatur 1 mile west of Leon 743.00
Black Hawk Lake Sac east edge of Lake View 729.00
Brushy Creek Lake Webster 5 miles east of Lehigh 690.00
Lake Icaria Adams 4 miles north of Corning 648.00
Twelve Mile Creek Lake Union 4 miles east of Creston 635.00
Little Spirit Lake Dickinson 4 miles north of Orleans 604.00
Browns Lake Woodbury 2 miles west of Salix 580.00
Lake Sugema Van Buren 3 miles southwest of Keosauqua 574.00
Green Island Lake Jackson 1m E green Island 526.00
Rock Creek Lake Jasper 4 miles northeast of Kellogg 466.20
North Twin Lake Calhoun 4 miles north of Rockwell City 453.00
Lake Delhi Delaware 3m W Delhi 448.00
Pleasant Creek Lake Linn 4 miles North of Palo 401.00
Lost Grove Lake Scott Six miles east of Eldridge 400.00
Badger Lake Monona 380.00
East Hottes Dickinson 378.00
Snyder Bend Lake Woodbury 1 1/2 miles west of Salix 375.00
Swan Lake Dickinson 2m N Superior 371.00
Ingham Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 357.00
Green Valley Lake Union 2 1/2 miles northwest of Creston 338.00
West Lake (Osceola) Clarke 2 miles west of Osceola 320.00
Carter Lake Pottawattamie North edge of Carter Lake. 315.00
Lake Darling Washington 4 miles west of Brighton 303.00
Lake Wapello Davis 7 miles west of Drakesville 289.00
Roberts Creek Lake Marion 6 miles northeast of Knoxville 288.00
Badger Creek Lake Madison 5 miles southeast of Van Meter 276.00
Blue Lake Monona 3 miles west of Onawa 269.00
Lake Belva Deer Keokuk 5 miles northeast of Sigourney 264.00
Middle Sabula Lake Jackson W edge Sabula 260.00
Martens Lake Bremer 1 mi E of Tripoli 255.00
Lower Gar Lake Dickinson ½ mile south of Arnolds Park 251.00
Crystal Lake Hancock north edge of Crystal Lake 244.00
Blue Heron Lake (Raccoon River Park) Polk southwest of West Des Moines; Raccoon River Park 232.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Nashua Impoundment (Cedar Lake) Chickasaw Located on the east edge of Nashua. 200.00
Hawthorn Lake (aka Barnes City Lake) Mahaska 1 mile south of Barnes City 182.00
Easter Lake Polk southeast edge of Des Moines 179.10
Lake Geode Henry 4 miles southwest of Danville 174.00
Prairie Rose Lake Shelby 8 miles southeast of Harlan 173.00
Lake Anita Cass 1/2 miles south of Anita 159.00
Don Williams Lake Boone 5 miles north of Ogden 151.00
Morris Lake Lucas 3 miles east of Chariton 141.00
Lake Miami Monroe 5 miles southeast of Lovilla 140.00
Ada Hayden Heritage Park Lake Story North side of Ames, west of Grand Avenue/Highway 69. 137.00
Viking Lake Montgomery 4 miles east of Stanton 136.00
Volga Lake Fayette Located 3 miles north of Fayette. 135.00
Brinker Lake Black Hawk N edge Waterloo 134.00
Deep Lakes Muscatine 130.00
South Sabula Lake Jackson 130.00
Minnewashta Lake Dickinson 1/2 mile south of Arnolds Park 118.00
Lake Ahquabi Warren 5 miles southwest of Indianola 114.00
Iowa Lake Iowa 5 miles North of Millersburg 107.00
Hickory Grove Lake Story 3 miles southwest of Colo 100.30
Union Grove Lake Tama 4 miles South of Gladbrook 100.00
Swan Lake Carroll 3 miles southeast of Carroll 100.00
Diamond Lake Poweshiek 1 mile West of Montezuma 98.00
Grays Lake Polk Fleur Drive, Des Moines 96.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
RAPP Park Lakes Page north edge of Shenandoah 95.00
Terry Trueblood Lake Johnson 1.5 miles south of Hwy 6 on Gilbert Street in Iowa City. 90.00
Garlock Slough Dickinson 90.00
Cedar Lake Madison 2 miles northeast of Winterset 90.00
Beeds Lake Franklin 2 miles west, 1 mile north of Hampton 90.00
Sweet Marsh Reservoir Bremer 85.00
Pony Creek Lake Mills 3 1/2 miles northwest of Glenwood 83.00
Loch Ayr Ringgold 2 miles north of Mt. Ayr 83.00
Lake Keomah Mahaska 6 miles east of Oskaloosa 78.00
Red Haw Lake Lucas 1 mile east of Chariton 76.00
Binder Lake Adams 1 mile northeast of Corning 76.00
George Wyth Lake Black Hawk N edge Waterloo 75.00
Otter Creek Lake Tama 6 miles Northeast of Toledo 74.00
Lake of Three Fires Taylor 3 miles northeast of Bedford 72.00
Corydon Reservoir Wayne West edge of Corydon 70.00
Littlefield Lake Audubon 4 miles east of Exira 70.00
Upper Pine Lake Hardin 1/2 mile east of Eldora 69.00
Lake Pahoja Lyon 4 miles south, 2 miles west of Larchwood 65.00
Fontana Mill Lake Buchanan .5m S Hazleton 63.00
Lower Pine Lake Hardin 1/2 mile east of Eldora 62.00
Crawford Creek Impoundment Ida 3 1/2 miles south of Battle Creek 62.00
Nine Eagles Lake Decatur 3 1/2 miles southeast of Davis City 62.00
Atlantic Quarry Pond 3 Cass 60.90
Walnut Creek Marsh Ringgold 5 miles southwest of Mt. Ayr 60.00
Alice Wyth Lake Black Hawk north edge of Waterloo 60.00
Sands Timber Lake (Blockton Reservoir) Taylor 1 mile northwest of Blockton 60.00
Briggs Woods Lake Hamilton 2 miles south of Webster City 59.00
Lake Smith Kossuth 3 miles north of Algona 59.00
Greenfield Lake Adair 1 mile southwest of Greenfield 56.00
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