Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know


Mooneye, photo courtesy of William L. Pflieger, issouri Department of Conservation


Mooneyes have deep bodies that are strongly compressed laterally. Color varies from steel blue on the back to silver sides and a white belly. The eye has a silvery iris. The belly has a fleshy keel, but lacks scutes. The head is blunt and rounded with a slightly oblique mouth. Teeth are in both jaws, as well as on the roof of the mouth and on the tongue. There are 15 to 17 gill rakers along the lower limb of the first gill arch. The fish has adipose eyelids. Scales are cycloid and the lateral line has 52 to 57 scales. The dorsal fin has 10 to 14 rays and inserts in front of the anal fin, which has 26 to 29 rays. Males have a sickle-shaped anal fin, and in females it is bowl-shaped. An axillary process is found near the base of the pelvic fin. Anglers often mistaken this fish as a Gizzard Shad.


Mooneye Distribution

Restricted to the large rivers in Iowa; found in many of the larger, interior rivers such as the Cedar, Des Moines and Upper Iowa Rivers, but most abundant in the Mississippi River. It has been documented in the Big Sioux and Missouri River, but its distribution spreads along the southern and eastern borders of the state.


Plankton during the young stages of life switching to insects, mollusks, crayfish, and small fish at later stages.

State Record

1.52 lbs - Pool 9, Mississippi River Allamakee County, October 2016 - Tricia Steines. Springbrook, Iowa

Expert Tip

Mooneye eat minnows; fish for them like you would for White Bass or crappies.


Mooneye live in the clearest rivers, lakes and large reservoirs. It is often found in backwaters and other quiet areas, but feed in swift current over firm bottoms, such as dam outflows. It is a surface-feeder and needs an abundant supply of small fish. Mooneye do not tolerate excessive turbidity and high gradients.

Little is known of the spawning ritual of this fish, but it probably occurs at random in April and May in shallow areas of cleaner streams. Each female produces about 10,000 to 20,000 eggs, and no care is given to the young. Mooneye commonly reach 9- to 11-inches long, with a maximum size of about 10- to 12-inches. 

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 William L. Pflieger, Missouri Department of Conservation



Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 9, Mississippi River Allamakee River Mile 647.9 at Lynxville, WI upstream to River Mile 679.2 at Genoa WI. 35169.00
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 11, Mississippi River Dubuque River Mile 583 at Dubuque, IA upstream to River Mile 615 at Guttenberg, IA. 19875.00
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
Five in One Dam Linn On Cedar River under I-380 in Cedar Rapids 90.00
Cedar River (La Porte City to Cedar Rapids) Linn This stretch is located in Benton and Linn County. A popular river access is in the Dudgeon Lake Wildlife Area right of Hwy 150 on the North side of Vinton. 56.00
Cedar River (Cedar Rapids to Moscow) Cedar This stretch is found in Linn and Cedar County. A popular access is found in Palisades State Park which is on Hwy 30 between Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon. 55.00
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
Atlantic Quarry Pond 2 Cass 31.10
Iowa River (Columbus Junction to Mississippi R) Louisa Cappy Russell Access : West of Oakville 6444 County Road X-71, Oakville, IA 52646 30.00
Iowa River (Coralville Lake to River Junction) Johnson This stretch is located in Johnson County. A popular access is the Tailwater East Ramp located right below the Coralville Lake Dam, East of North Liberty and Coralville. 29.00
Iowa River (River Junction to Columbus Junction) Louisa River Forks Access : 1001 Main Street, Fredonia, IA 52738 24.00