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Bullhead Minnow

Bullhead Minnow, photo courtesy of Konrad P. Schmidt, copyright Konrad P. Schmidt


Stout body, which is slightly compressed and has a broad flat area in front of the dorsal fin. They have a shortened, closely attached first soft ray of the dorsal fin and crowded scales in front of the dorsal fin. A prominent dark blotch in the first 4 rays of the dorsal fin helps to identify this minnow. The terminal mouth is slightly oblique and has no barbel. Slender, hooked pharyngeal teeth with elongate cutting edges are arranged in a 4-4 formula. The complete lateral line is slightly decurved with 39 to 44 scales. Dorsal and pelvic fins have 8 rays, while the anal fin has 7 rays, and the pectoral fins have 15 or 16 rays. The body is dusky-green dorsally, shading to silvery sides and belly. A lateral band, which may be faint to dark, ends in a dark spot on the caudal peduncle. Breeding males develop an enlarged, black head with large tubercles on the snout.


Bullhead Minnow Distribution

Natural lakes and major interior rivers of the Mississippi River drainage including the Cedar, Des Moines, Iowa, Maquoketa, Raccoon, and Wapsipinicon Rivers. Also found throughout the Mississippi River, being one of the most abundant species in the river. It is most abundant in the central portions of the Des Moines River.


Aquatic insects and their larvae.

State Record

State Records are not documented for non-game species.

Expert Tip

Bullhead Minnows are one of the most abundant prey species in the Mississippi River - mimic them with your lures to catch more fish.


The Bullhead Minnow lives in the main channels of large streams. It avoids upland streams and strong current, but is tolerant of turbidity and siltation. It is successful in larger bodies of  stagnant water with little or no rooted aquatic vegetation and silt-covered gravel, sand or deep mud substrates. 

The Bullhead Minnow lives in channels of large streams, and are rare in lakes. Spawning occurs over an extended period from early spring through mid-summer. Females place adhesive eggs onto the under surface of objects in the water, and the males protect and clean them. Adults reach about 3-inches long.

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 Konrad P. Schmidt, copyright Konrad P. Schmidt.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
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