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The Golden Redhorse is a slightly chubby, coarse-scaled sucker colored light-yellow to bronze. The scales on the back and sides are without dark spots on the base. It can be separated from the Silver Redhorse by the outer margin of the dorsal fin, which is slightly curved inward and has 12 to 13 (rarely 14) rays. The ridges on the lips are continuous and not broken by transverse creases into small papillae. The lateral line is complete and has 39 to 42 scales. The tail fin is slate or pale yellow colored, and the air bladder has three chambers.
The Golden Redhorse is common in most small to moderate-sized streams in Iowa. It is uncommon in the upper reaches of the Mississippi and rare in the more turbid waters of the lower Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The species prefers deep pool habitat along the outside channel bends that have slow to moderate current with clean sand or gravel bottoms. This species is extremely sensitive to toxicants and is intolerant of excessive turbidity.
Food of the golden redhorse is almost exclusively aquatic insect larvae and small mollusks.
Hook and line anglers generally only take suckers during early spring spawning runs, and more commonly in northeast Iowa rivers and streams.
The Golden Redhorse can be found statewide in Iowa, but is most abundant in small to moderate-sized streams in the more forested parts of northeast Iowa. It is commonly found in the middle reaches of the Mississippi River but is rare in the more turbid waters of the Missouri River basin.
The Golden Redhorse prefers pools and low raceways with clear, gravelly or rocky bottoms in creeks or small rivers of medium gradient and enough current to prevent rapidly accumulating silt. The habitat of the Golden Redhorse is similar to that the Black Redhorse but prefers slightly warmer waters with less current, and is more tolerant of large rivers, turbidity, and intermittent flow. Researchers in Missouri have found that it reaches highest abundance in streams with large permanent pools and firm, well-defined rocky or gravelly riffles. The Golden Redhorse is intolerant of continuous turbidity, rapid siltation, and industrial pollutants, but because of its highly migratory nature, it is able penetrate streams with considerable industrial pollution.
Golden Redhorse ascends small streams in late April or May to spawn when water temperature ranges form 60 to 72 degrees F. They are gregarious spawners, broadcasting the semi-adhesive eggs over gravel or rubble substrates in the shallow riffles. Eggs are left unattended to hatch. The age of maturity is variable with some males maturing in the third year and females one year older. Fecundity of an 18-inch female is around 21,000 eggs. Growth of Golden Redhorse in the upper reaches of the Mississippi River is 2.2 inches in the first year, 15.6 inches at the fifth year and 19.3 inches at 8 years of age. Food of the golden redhorse is almost exclusively aquatic insect larvae and small mollusks.
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.