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Golden Redhorse

Golden Redhorse, photo courtesy of Garold W. Sneegas, copyright Garold W. Sneegas.


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 with 39 to 42 scales. The tail fin is slate or pale-yellow, and the air bladder has three chambers.


Golden Redhorse Distribution

Statewide; most abundant in small to moderate-sized streams in the more forested parts of northeast Iowa. Commonly found in the middle reaches of the Mississippi River, but is rare in the more turbid waters of the Missouri River basin.


Almost exclusively aquatic insect larvae and small mollusks.

State Record

2.20lbs; 17.25 in. - Wapsipinicon River (Troy Mills to Oxford Junction), Jones County, April 23, 2020 - Rory Petersen, Olin, Iowa

Expert Tip

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 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 of 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 can live in streams with considerable industrial pollution.

Golden Redhorse go to small streams in late April or May to spawn when water temperature is 60 to 72 degrees. 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. An 18-inch female produces 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.

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.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Wapsipinicon River (state line to Tripoli) Chickasaw This section includes Bremer, Chickasaw, Howard and Mitchell County. Twin Ponds Park has good access to the Wapsi River and is about 5 miles southeast of Ionia. 88.00
Volga River Clayton This stretch includes the headwaters in Fayette County and flows through Clayton County where it empties into the Turkey River just west of Garber. 81.00
Upper Iowa River (above Decorah) Winneshiek Find this stretch in Howard and Winneshiek County. A popular access is found in Kendallville Park and Campground off of Hwy 139 about 8 miles northeast of Cresco. 79.00
Winnebago River Floyd Located in Winnebago, Hancock, Worth, Cerro Gordo, and Floyd Counties. A good access point is East Park in Mason City. It offers excellent shore access to the river and a good starting point for a float trip down to the Averydale Access. 72.00
West Fork Cedar River Black Hawk Best access locations are west of Highway 14 below the Big Marsh Wildlife Area in Butler County. 68.00
Iowa River (Iowa Falls to Marshalltown) Marshall This stretch is located in Hardin and Marshall County. A popular access is located in Pine Lake State Park, just east of Eldora on County Road S56. 66.00
Turkey River (below Clermont) Clayton This stretch is found in Fayette and Clayton County. A popular scenic and historical area is the Motor Mill Access about 8 miles southeast of Elkader on Galaxy Road. 65.00
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
Upper Iowa River (below Decorah) Allamakee This stretch includes Winneshiek and Allamakee County. A popular access is at Lower Dam about 11 miles northeast of Decorah. 57.00
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
Wapsipinicon River (Troy Mills to Oxford Junction) Jones This stretch is located in Linn and Jones County. A popular access on this stretch is in Pinicon Ridge Park, just off Hwy 13 by Central City. 53.00
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
East Fork Des Moines (Algona to Humboldt) Humboldt 52.00
Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock) Marion A mid-section access point for this stretch of river is at the Pleasant Hill Boat Ramp. This ramp is located on SE Vandalia Drive immediately east of Highway 65. 50.00
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
Yellow River Allamakee Coldwater section begins below Livingood Springs and east of Old Stage Road flowing through Allamakee County and the Effigy Mounds National Monument where it empties into the Mississippi River. 25.00
Upper Dam Impoundment Winneshiek This dam is located approximately 7.1 miles east of Decorah on the Upper Iowa River. 22.00
Trout Run (Winneshiek) 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
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80