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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.
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 Records are not documented for non-game species.
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