Creek Chub

Creek Chub, illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


Body form is stout and robust, with a broad, blunt head. Four taxonomic characters separate this species from the other cyprinids. There is a black spot in the first 3 rays of the dorsal fin. It has a very large mouth. A small, flap-like barbel is located in the groove in the middle of the upper jaw. A wedged-shaped spot appears at the base of the tail. Body color of the back and sides varies from olive to purplish changing to silvery-white on the belly, and a lateral stripe runs from the tip of the snout through the eye to the end of the caudal peduncle. The intensity of the lateral stripe and dorsal color depends on water clarity, darker individuals come from clearer waters. Creek chubs look striped because of the dark color above, light streak just above the dark lateral line, and then white beneath. The dorsal fin is behind the base of the pelvic fins, and the anal fins have 8 rays, while the pectoral fins have 16 or 17, and the pelvic fins have 8 rays. Body scales are very small and look cross-hatched on the upper back and sides. Lateral line scales range from 49 to 64, and are sometimes interrupted by missing pores. A terminal, slightly oblique mouth extends to below the eye and usually has a barbel; the barbel may be absent from one or both sides. Hooked pharyngeal teeth, on stout arches, are arranged in two rows and have the formula 2, 5-4, 2. Breeding males develop a rosy tint on the body and form large nuptial tubercles on head and snout. Fins may become light yellowish to light olive in color.


Creek Chub Distribution

Widely distributed in all major drainage basins in this state, but its abundance in fish collections varies with location. It is common in most of our small streams, while it is rare to occasional in the large interior rivers. It is rare in the Great Border Rivers and seldom maintains populations in lakes and reservoirs.


aquatic and terrestrial insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, mollusks and small fishes

State Record

State Records are not documented for non-game species.

Expert Tip

For a great adventure close to home, go fishing at a small stream with a little spinner (Mepps size 0, for example). For even more fun, try fly fishing with small wet (sinking) flies. Keep a few to use as live bait the next time you go fishing for bigger fish, or to use as cut bait for catfish.


Creek Chubs live in small to medium-sized streams with silt-free gravel bars. They frequent streams with alternate riffles and pools rather than continuous strong flow, living where there are sufficient holes, brush, roots, or other cover for retreat if threatened. They can endure turbidity, if the current sweeps the gravel free of silt. Creek chubs are one of the largest and most dominant fishes in Iowa creeks and streams. 

Male Creek Chubs prepare a nest in the gravel-bottomed run by mounding up gravel about 3 inches high and several feet long using their snout and mouth. Spawning starts in May when the water temperature reaches about 65 degrees F. Eggs are deposited in the nest by one or more females over 2 weeks and covered with gravel by the male as nest building continues. The male guards the nest against intruders with tubercle displays or swimming in a ritualized combative posture.

Creek Chubs reach about 12-inches long after 4 years of life.

Creek Chubs provide some angling in small streams, particularly for young fishermen, and are an excellent food fish. They are one of the principal bait fishes because they are hardy, abundant and easily kept in confinement. In the wild they are an important forage fish for sport fish species.

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

Illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
East Nishnabotna River Fremont Red Oak city limits has river access and hard surface boat ramp 123.00
West Nishnabotna River Fremont 121.00
Wapsipinicon River (state line to Tripoli) Chickasaw This section includes Bremer, Chickasaw, Howard and Mitchell County. Twin Ponds Park has good access to the Wapsi River and is about 5 miles southeast of Ionia. 88.00
East Nodaway River Page 72.00
Missouri River (Sioux City to Little Sioux) Harrison Chris Larsen Park: 1280 Larsen Park Road/Sioux City, IA. Located on the Sioux City riverfront along the Missouri River. Larsen Park offers 110 acres on the Sioux City Riverfront. Managed by the City of Sioux City. 64.00
Missouri River (Council Bluffs to state line) Fremont Lake Manawa State Park: 1100 South Shore Drive/Council Bluffs, IA 51501 phone: 712-366-0220. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Lake Manawa State Park has boat ramps on the Missouri River within the park. 61.00
Little Sioux River (Correctionville to Missouri R) Harrison Little Sioux Park, 2 miles SW of Correctionville, Woodberry County Conservation Board 57.00
Missouri River (Little Sioux to Council Bluffs) Pottawattamie Wilson Island State Recreation Area: 32801 Campground Lane/Missouri Valley, IA 51555 phone-712-642-2069. Managed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Wilson Island Recreation Area has 544 acres along the Missouri River near Missouri Valley Iowa. 53.00
Grand River Decatur 41.00
Yellow River Allamakee T96N, R6W, S3 to T96N, R4W, S24 25.00
Paint Creek Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 11.00
Ten Mile Creek Winneshiek Located 2 miles northwest of Decorah. T98N, R9W, S1, 2, 3 10.64
Maquoketa River (trout portion) Clayton The Upper Maquoketa River from Joy Springs downstream to Backbone Lake contains trout year-round. The area 3 miles southwest of Strawberry Point off 400th is stocked with catchable fish. 8.00
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
Sny Magill Creek Clayton Located in the Sny Magill Wildlife Management Area, 3 miles southwest of McGregor along Keystone Road. 5.00
Trout River Winneshiek Located 5 miles southeast of Decorah off of 133rd Avenue. 5.00
Coldwater Creek Winneshiek Located 3 miles northwest of Bluffton off of Coldwater Creek Road. 4.00
Coon Creek Winneshiek Located in Coon Creek Wildlife Management Area, 7 miles northeast of Decorah. 2.60
Otter Creek Fayette Located 3 miles southeast of West Union. 2.50
McLoud Run Linn Along the east side of I-380 in central Cedar Rapids 2.50
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 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
Turtle Creek Mitchell Located about 1/2 mile north of St. Ansgar off of Highway 218. 2.20
Trout Run Winneshiek Located on the south side of Decorah off Trout Run Road. 2.20
Burr Oak Creek Mitchell Stream located just north of Osage. T98N, R16W, S4, 5, 9, 10 2.00
North Cedar Creek Clayton Located 3 miles west of McGregor off of CR B60 or Ivory Road. 2.00
Brush Creek Jackson Located 2 miles northeast of Andrew just south of 261st street. 1.90
Buck Creek Clayton Located 3 miles northeast of Garnavillo. 1.70
Brush Creek Fayette Located in Brush Creek Canyon State Preserve, 1.5 miles north of Arlington off of CR C2W or 90th Street. 1.60
Casey Springs Winneshiek Stream located north of Decorah. T99N, R9W, S25, 26 1.50
Richmond Springs Delaware 3 miles south of Strawberry Point. Located entirely within Backbone State Park. Closest to north park gate access. 1.40
Hewett and Ensign Creeks (Ensign Hollow) Clayton Located on Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area about 5 miles north of Strawberry Point. Access is provided on the north side of 322nd street. 1.30
Little Turkey River Delaware 3 miles east of Colesburg in Hoffman Wildlife Managment Area off Hubbard Road 1.20
Tete des Morts River Jackson Located near St. Donatus. T87N, R3E, S4 1.10
Turner Creek Fayette Located near St. Lucas and empties into the Turkey River. 1.09
Ram Hollow Delaware 1.00
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
Joy Springs Clayton South on Alpha Ave, off Highway 3 about 3 miles west of Strawberry Point in Joy Springs County Park. 0.80
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80
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
Mossy Glen Clayton 5 miles northwest of Edgewood at the termination of the Level B portion of Eagle Ave. Road damage from weather has made access to this site difficult for all vehicles. Not recommended for low-clearance or 2-wheel drives. 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