Shorthead redhorse

Shorthead redhorse


head is shorter than other redhorse species, tailfin is bright red, upper lip often has a "pea shaped" swelling in the middle, large scales


Shorthead redhorse Distribution

widely distributed throughout Iowa but is more abundant in streams in the northern and eastern regions of the state


aquatic insect larvae, some plant material, mainly algae

State Record


Expert Tip



Formerly named the northern redhorse (Moxostoma aureouim), this species was renamed to the present nomenclature in 1973. This fish is widely distributed over most of Iowa, but it is far more abundant in streams in the northern and eastern regions of the state. Its wide range is probably due to its adaptability to changing environmental conditions and different habitats. The shorthead redhorse is abundant in the Mississippi River, common in the interior rivers and uncommon to rare in the natural lakes and the Missouri River drainage.

Moderate to swift current over sand and gravel substrate is preferred habitat for the shorthead redhorse. This sucker is adaptable to high turbidity, but it occurs most frequently in clear to slightly turbid water in the deeper stretches of the channel.

The shorthead redhorse is a slender, coarse-scaled sucker with a bright red tail fin. The head is shorter than other redhorse, its dorsal fin is strongly curved inward, having 12-13 or sometimes 14 soft rays. The upper lip often has a "pea-shaped" swelling in the middle. The rear margin of the lower lip is nearly straight with the lip folds divided into prominent papillae. The pharyngeal teeth are thin, comb-like with about 53 per arch. The lateral line is complete with 41 to 45 scales. Scale count around the caudal peduncle is 12.

Life history characteristics of shorthead redhorse are not notably different from other redhorses. Adults commonly reach 10 to 22 inches in length and weigh from 1 to 4 pounds. Maturity is attained at age III. Upstream spawning movements in large schools is common for male redhorses during early April at water temperature ranges of 47 to 60 degrees F. Males congregate and defend spawning territories that contain gravel riffles and rubble shoals. The actual spawning ritual occurs when a female moves into the gravel-lined troughs or nests and two males mate with a single female. The semi-adhesive eggs are broadcast which are unattended and hatch in 4 or 5 days. Fecundity of an 18-inch female is about 22,000 eggs. Growth of the shorthead redhorse averages 1.9 inches the first year of life, 16.0 inches at age V and 20.9 inches at 11 years of age in the Mississippi River. Aquatic insect larvae comprise the principal food items of shorthead redhorse, but some plant material, mainly algae, are also consumed.

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. There is some shore fishing along the parking area and at the outlet of Lake Odessa. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Pool 16, Mississippi River Scott The amenities list are for Buffalo Shores campground in Buffalo, Iowa. Amenities at other locations in Pool 16 vary by location. 13000.00
Pool 17, Mississippi River Muscatine Amenities list for Muscatine City Ramp. This ramp is located in downtown Muscatine. Amenities vary by location in Pool 17. 7580.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
West Nishnabotna River Fremont 121.00
Skunk River (Rose Hill to Coppock) Washington McKain's River Access : Dogwood Avenue on the South side of the River. 3 miles North of Lake Darling State Park. 110.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa 104.00
Wapsipinicon River (Oxford Junct to Mississippi R) Scott Wapsi River Environmental Education Center : 31555 52nd Avenue, Dixon, Iowa 52745. Northeast of Dixon along the Wapsi River. And Sherman Park across the River in Clinton County 66.00
Skunk River (Coppock to Mississippi River) Des Moines Mac Coon Access is located five and one-half miles north of Lockridge just east of Willow Blvd. 65.00
Little Sioux River (Correctionville to Missouri R) Harrison Little Sioux Park, 2 miles SW of Correctionville, Woodberry County Conservation Board 57.00
Des Moines River (Stratford to Saylorville Lake) Polk The Highway 30 Access is in the middle of this river section and is located 3 miles west of Boone on the north side of Highway 30. 57.00
Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock) Marion 50.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Des Moines River (Farmington to Keokuk) Lee Redwing Access : 3941 Valley Road just west of Keokuk. 35.00
Cedar River (Moscow to Columbus Junction) Muscatine Saulsbury Bridge Recreational Area :•2007 Saulsbury Road, Muscatine, Iowa 52761 •From Highway 61 in Muscatine go 2.5 miles north on Mulberry Rd., then 4 miles west on Saulsbury Rd. 32.00
Iowa River (Columbus Junction to Mississippi R) Louisa Cappy Russell Access : West of Oakville 6444 County Road X-71, Oakville, IA 52646 30.00
Mohawk Park Lake Linn East side of the Cedar River off J Ave. 26.00
Iowa River (River Junction to Columbus Junction) Louisa River Forks Access : 1001 Main Street, Fredonia, IA 52738 24.00
Trout Run Winneshiek Located on the south side of Decorah off Trout Run Road. 2.20
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20