Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know

Iowa darter

Iowa darter


A very slender, moderate-sized darter reaching about 2 1/2-inches long. It is bright green with dark brown blotches and small red spots on the sides, belly fading to yellow or gold and white, dorsal fin rays 9 to 11, 7 anal rays, about 60 scales along the lateral line, which is incomplete. The cheeks, opercles and nape are scaled and the breast is naked.


Iowa darter Distribution

Most abundant in the natural lakes in Iowa, but can be found in rivers and streams in northern Iowa, as well as the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.


Midge larvae, mayfly larvae, and amphipods

State Record

State Records are not documented for non-game species.

Expert Tip



The Iowa Darter lives in clear, sluggishly vegetated streams and weedy areas of glacial lakes, marshes and ponds. Forest clearing and drainage practices have reduced its habitat and warmed the remaining waters enough to eliminate this species in the southern part of its range. In the United States, it is now common only in non-agricultural areas.

Spawning occurs in sandy areas or beneath stream banks in April and May. During the actual spawning act, the male places its pelvic fins over the dorsal fin of the female and his caudal peduncle wraps around to meet hers. Only a few eggs are laid in each spawning sequence.

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.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Wildlife Action Plan

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 Joseph Tomelleri, copyright Joseph Tomelleri.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Spirit Lake Dickinson One mile North of Spirit Lake 5684.00
West Okoboji Lake Dickinson northwest edge of Arnolds Park 3847.00