Central Stoneroller

Central Stoneroller, photo courtesy of Garold W. Sneegas, copyright Garold W. Sneegas


Body form varies from slender to moderately stout. They are slightly compressed laterally with an arch in the back. The horizontal mouth is sub-terminal and lacks a barbel. A cartilaginous and chisel-shaped lower jaw is a distinct characteristic of stonerollers. Slender arches support the slightly hooked pharyngeal teeth, which are arranged in a 4-4 pattern. The lateral line is complete, with 49 to 55 scales, and the circumferential scale counts (around the body frontal of the dorsal fin) range from 39 to 55. Dorsal and pelvic fins ray count are 8, while the pectoral fins have 15 rays and the anal fins 7 rays. The long intestine is usually wrapped around the air bladder, and it is covered by a black peritoneum. The body is brownish-olive with a brassy luster above and silvery to white beneath. Body sides are marked with scattered dark scales, giving the fish a mottled look. Spawning males develop a dark bar across the anal fin and have tubercles on their back, top of the head, and between the nostrils.


Central stoneroller Distribution

Throughout Iowa, except for extreme southwest Iowa. It is found along the entire length of the Mississippi River. One of Iowa’s more abundant cyprinids, the Central Stoneroller is common in most stream fish collections


Stonerollers feed by scraping the algae and bottom ooze from submerged objects.

State Record

State Records are not documented for non-game species.

Expert Tip

Spawning males develop a dark bar across the anal fin and have tubercles on their back, top of the head, and between the nostrils, as shown in the photo above.


The Central Stoneroller lives in many habitats  from very small streams to large rivers. Some researchers have found that the largest populations were found where a combination of habitats was available such as small streams with moderate to high gradients with sandy-gravel bottoms in which to spawn, moderate-sized streams with moderate gradients in which to summer, and larger streams of lower gradients in which to winter. In Iowa, the Central Stoneroller lives in small creeks, reaching its highest abundance in coolwater streams. In Missouri, the Central Stoneroller occurs with highest abundance in streams with moderate or high gradients, well-defined rubble or bedrock riffles, and permanent flows. Collections have shown that small populations can be found in upland impoundments as well. The Central Stoneroller prefers clear water, but can tolerate turbidity if the bottom is free of silt, remains reasonably cool and is well oxygenated.

Spawning activity peaks during April, when males built nests by moving gravel with their mouths or nudging it away with their snouts, giving rise to their common name. Adults may reach 7-inches long.

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


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 Garold W. Sneegas, copyright Garold W. Sneegas

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
East Nodaway River Page 72.00
Grand River Decatur 41.00
Yellow River Allamakee T96N, R6W, S3 to T96N, R4W, S24 25.00
Ten Mile Creek Winneshiek Located 2 miles northwest of Decorah. T98N, R9W, S1, 2, 3 10.64
Bloody Run Creek Clayton Located 2 miles west of Marquette off of Highway 18. 6.50
East Pine Creek Winneshiek Stream located east of Bluffton. T100N, R9W, S21, 22, 23 5.80
Little Turkey River (put and grow) Delaware 4 miles east of Colesburg off Hubbard Road 3.20
Coon Creek Winneshiek Located in Coon Creek Wildlife Management Area, 7 miles northeast of Decorah. 2.60
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 2.50
McLoud Run Linn Along the east side of I-380 in central Cedar Rapids 2.50
Otter Creek Fayette Located 3 miles southeast of West Union. 2.50
Fountain Springs Delaware 2.5 miles northeast of Greeley along Oak Road. Most of the fishery lies within Fountain Springs County Park 2.30
Spring Branch Delaware 3 miles east-southeast of Manchester off 205th Avenue. Parking available near highway 20 overpass and Manchester Fish Hatchery 2.20
Trout Run Winneshiek Located on the south side of Decorah off Trout Run Road. 2.20
Upper Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque near Swiss Valley Nature Center, just off Swiss Valley Road 2.10
Brush Creek Jackson Located 2 miles northeast of Andrew just south of 261st street. 1.90
White Pine Hollow Dubuque This fishery is located primarily within White Pine Hollow State preserve, about 2 miles northwest of Luxemburg. Access to this fishery is difficult. A small parking area is available on the east side of the preserve. Best fishing is on the west side. 1.80
Buck Creek Clayton Located 3 miles northeast of Garnavillo. 1.70
Richmond Springs Delaware 3 miles south of Strawberry Point. Located entirely within Backbone State Park. Closest to north park gate access. 1.40
Little Turkey River Delaware 3 miles east of Colesburg in Hoffman Wildlife Managment Area off Hubbard Road 1.20
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20
Tete des Morts River Jackson Located near St. Donatus. T87N, R3E, S4 1.10
Mink Creek Fayette Located on private property 1.5 miles north of Wadena, access on Bighorn Road. 0.90
Twin Bridges Delaware Just south of Highway 3 about 5.5 miles west of Colesburg in Twin Bridges County Park 0.90
Lower Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque in Swiss Valley Park just off Swiss Valley Road 0.80
Miners Creek Clayton Stream is located west of Guttenberg. T92N, R2W, S7, 18 and T29N, R3W, S12 0.80
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80
Little Mill Creek Jackson Located on Little Mill Wildlife Managment Area and private property 2 miles west of Bellevue, with parking south off 216th street. 0.70
Bigalk Creek Howard Located 7 miles northeast of Cresco. 0.60
tributaries to Tete des Morts River Jackson Located near St. Donatus. T87N, R3E, S16, 17, 23 0.60
Baileys Ford Delaware 3 miles southeast of Manchester - follow signage from Jefferson Road. 0.60
South Cedar Creek Clayton Located 2 miles south of Garnavillo and may be accessed from Jigsaw Road. 0.50
Bohemian Creek Winneshiek Located about 1.5 miles east of Protivin. 0.30
Monastery Creek Dubuque Monastery Creek can be accessed through the Dubuque County Swiss Valley Nature Preserve about 4 miles SW of Dubuque off of Swiss Valley Rd. 0.20