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Mooneye

Mooneye, photo courtesy of William L. Pflieger, issouri Department of Conservation

Characteristics

Color varies from steel blue on the back to silver sides and a white belly. The eye has a silvery iris. The belly has a fleshy keel but lacks scutes. Teeth occur in both jaws as well as on the roof of the mouth and on the tongue. This fish is often mistaken by anglers as a gizzard shad.

Distribution

Mooneye Distribution

The mooneye is restricted to the large rivers in Iowa. It can be found in many of the larger, interior rivers such as the Cedar, Des Moines and Upper Iowa rivers but reaches its greatest abundance in the Mississippi River. The mooneye has been documented in the Big Sioux and Missouri River but its distribution tends to spread along the southern and eastern borders of the state.

Foods

plankton during the young stages of life switching to insects, mollusks, crayfish, and small fish at later stages

State Record

Open category, no submissions at this time

Expert Tip

1/4 pieces of nightcrawlers fished on the river bottom can produce some ultralight tackle-busting action from this scrappy fish!

Details

The mooneye is restricted to the large rivers in Iowa.  It can be found in many of the larger, interior rivers such as the Cedar, Des Moines and Upper Iowa rivers but reaches its greatest abundance in the Mississippi River.  The mooneye has been documented in the Big Sioux and Missouri River but its distribution tends to spread along the southern and eastern borders of the state.

Mooneyes have deep bodies that are strongly compressed laterally. Color varies from steel blue on the back to silver sides and a white belly. The eye has a silvery iris. The belly has a fleshy keel but lacks scutes. The head is blunt and rounded with a slightly oblique mouth. Teeth occur in both jaws as well as on the roof of the mouth and on the tongue. There are 15 to 17 gill rakers along the lower limb of the first gill arch. The fish has adipose eyelids. Scales are cycloid and the lateral line contains 52 to 57 scales. The dorsal fin has 10 to 14 rays and inserts forward of the anal fin, which has 26 to 29 rays. Males have a sickle-shaped anal fin, and in females it is concave. An axillary process is found near the base of the pelvic fin.

The mooneye inhabits the clearest rivers, lakes and large reservoirs. It is often found in backwaters and other quiet areas, but feeds in swift current over firm bottoms, such as dam outflows. It is a surface feeder and requires an abundant supply of small fish. The mooneye does not tolerate excessive turbidity and high gradients. Little is known of the spawning ritual of this fish, but it probably occurs at random in April and May in shallow areas of cleaner streams. Each female produces about 10,000 to 20,000 eggs, and no care is given to the young. Mooneye commonly reach 9 to 11 inches in length, with a maximum size of about 10 to 12 inches. Food consists mostly of plankton during the young stages of life, but the fish switch quickly to insects, mollusks, crayfish and small fish at later stages.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.

Sources:

Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.

Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of William L. Pflieger, Missouri Department of Conservation, http://www.conservation.state.mo.us

 


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