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Orangespotted sunfish

Orangespotted sunfish


A moderately deep-bodied, slab-sided sunfish with a large mouth that extends to the front of the eye when the mouth is closed. The spiny dorsal fin has 10 spines and is directly connected to the soft part of the fin. Pectoral fins are short and rounded, usually not reaching past the eye when extended in a forward position. The opercular flap is long and black with a whitish margin. The most striking features of the Orangespotted Sunfish are the vivid red or orange spots on the sides of males and the more subdued brownish-orange spots on females. The sides are olive-colored with a sprinkling of fine golden and emerald dots. Pelvic and anal fins are fringed in black.


Orangespotted sunfish Distribution

Widely distributed throughout Iowa; most common in the man-made lakes, natural lakes and interior streams. Occasionally seen in the Mississippi River and rare in the Missouri River.


Aquatic insects, crustaceans, and occasionally other small fish

State Record

0.02 lbs; 2.25 in. - Pool 14, Mississippi River, Clinton Co., February 7, 2023 - Aven Monaghan, Clinton, Iowa

Expert Tip



The Orangespotted Sunfish spawns by nesting in colonies with the male fish building a nest by digging a small depression in the sand or gravel. Since this is the smallest sunfish, it also builds the smallest nests. Spawning lasts from May through August, at which time the males are so brightly colored they look like painted artificials. The male stays with the nest for about 5 days or until the eggs hatch.

Orangespotted Sunfish reach about an inch long by the end of their first year of life and grow to about 2-inches in the second year. Growth continues at about one inch each year for the first four years. Adults mature at about 2-inches long and fish longer than 4-inches are very rare in Iowa.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


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
Spirit Lake Dickinson One mile North of Spirit Lake 5684.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5340.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 940.00
West Swan Lake S.W.M.A. Emmet 3m SE Gruver 830.00
Swan Lake Dickinson 2m N Superior 371.00
Middle Sabula Lake Jackson W edge of City of Sabula 350.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa This stretch is located in Marshall, Tama, the SW corner of Benton, Iowa, and Johnson County. A popular access is at the Hwy 21 Access, which is part of the Iowa River Corridor Wildlife Area, just south of Belle Plaine. 104.00
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
Bartlett Lake Fremont ½ mile west of Bartlett 22.00
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 2.50