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Shovelnose sturgeon

Shovelnose sturgeon


Buff or olive-drab above and light beneath. Its entire body is armored with heavy plates. Its snout is markedly flattened or shovel-shaped. There are no spiracles. A very long, thread-like filament attached to the top lobe of the tail fin, gives this fish one of its common names, switchtail. This filament is very fragile and is often missing, especially in older fish. This species commonly weighs 6- to 8-pounds, but 4- or 5-pound fish are more common.


Shovelnose sturgeon Distribution

Mississippi and Missouri rivers, occasionally in larger tributaries.


Insect larvea, small mollusks and other bottom-dwelling organisms

State Record

12 lbs; 33in. - Des Moines River (Ottumwa to Farmington, Van Buren County, April 1974 - Randy Hemm, Douds, Iowa

Expert Tip

Most Shovelnose Sturgeon are caught accidentally by anglers fishing for catfish on the bottom.


The Shovelnose is mostly a river fish, very seldom found in the absence of a current. In the Mississippi River it frequents the tailwaters below wing dams and other structures which accelerate current flow.

Spawning occurs in May and June, with the spawning run being greatest during years of low flow. Little is known about the spawning activity of this species. Fish mature at 5 to 7 years old when around 20- to 24-inches long. Females do not spawn every year, and the larger fish produce about 50,000 eggs. Growth in the Mississippi River is 8.4-inches at age 1, 12.5 at age 2, 16.1 at age 3, 18.8 at age 4, 20.7 at age 5, 22.5 at age 6, 23.8 at age 7, 25 at age 8, 25.9 at age 9, 26.7 at age 10, 27.1 at age 11, and 27.4 at age 12. Fish over 12 years old are very rare.

Shovelnose are the only sturgeon which you can legally take in Iowa, and they are actively sought by commercial and sport fishermen. About 50,000 pounds are harvested each year by commercial fishermen from the Mississippi River.

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
West Nishnabotna River Fremont 121.00
Maquoketa River (below Monticello) Jackson 82.00
Skunk River (Coppock to Mississippi River) Des Moines Mac Coon Access is located five and one-half miles north of Lockridge just east of Willow Blvd. 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
Des Moines River (Ottumwa to Farmington) Van Buren This stretch runs through Wapello and Van Buren counties. There are 11 boat ramps in this stretch. 61.00
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
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
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
Des Moines River (Farmington to Keokuk) Lee Redwing Access : 3941 Valley Road just west of Keokuk. 35.00
Boyer River (Dunlap to Missouri River) Pottawattamie Highway 30 bridge in Woodbine. Easting 275280 Northing 4623540 34.00
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
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