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Bass
Get to know your Iowa fish.

Iowa is home to 148 different fish species. Check out these helpful tips to help you identify Iowa fish.


What to look for?

Fish often are described by characteristics of their body shape, mouth, fins, and even scales. Knowing key characteristics of different kinds of fish will help you identify them. Fish that look alike or have similar characteristics are grouped together.


general characteristics of fish



Ten species of catfish live in Iowa waters. Catfish have rounded, scaleless bodies with flattened bellies. They are further distinguished from other groups by the eight barbells or “whiskers” around their mouths. Strong, sharp spines are located at the insertion of the dorsal and pectoral fins. 

 

channel catfish species profile

 

characteristics of a channel catfish

 

black bullhead species profile

characteristics of a black bullhead

 

flathead catfish species profile

characteristics of a flathead catfish

 

Find tips to help you identify Iowa's large catfish in this helpful guide.

Get tips from our fisheries biologists on how to fish for channel catfish and bullheads.

 

Some of the most popular sportfish species, such as basses, bluegill, and crappies are members of this family. “Sunfish” is a general term that describes six different species of disc-shaped fish found in Iowa waters. They typically are small and generally are short and deep bodied.

All sunfish have at least one spine at the front part of the dorsal fin, which is never completely separated from the rear portion. Their body is deeply compressed laterally with pelvic fins nearly beneath the pectoral fins.

bluegill species profile

characteristics of a bluegill

 

green sunfish species profile

 

characteristics of a green sunfish

 

redear sunfish species profile

 

characteristics of a redear sunfish

 

Get tips from our fisheries biologists on how to fish for bluegill.

 

Three black bass species live in Iowa waters. 

All sunfish have at least one spine at the front part of the dorsal fin, which is never completely separated from the rear portion. Their body is deeply compressed laterally with pelvic fins nearly beneath the pectoral fins.

largemouth bass species profile

characteristics of a largemouth bass

 

smallmouth bass species profile

characteristics of a smallmouth bass

 

Get tips from our fisheries biologists on how to fish for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.

 

Two kinds of crappie are found in Iowa. They are not as deep-bodied as other members of the sunfish family and they are black and white. The lower jaw is longer than the upper and they are “humped-backed.” Crappies seldom exceed two pounds.

All sunfish have at least one spine at the front part of the dorsal fin, which is never completely separated from the rear portion. Their body is deeply compressed laterally with pelvic fins nearly beneath the pectoral fins.

 

white crappie species profile

characteristics of a white crappie

 

black crappie species profile

characteristics of a black crappie

 

Get tips from our fisheries biologists on how to fish for crappie.

 

 

 

Iowa’s popular gamefish, walleye, sauger and yellow perch, are some of the 20 members of the perch family in Iowa. The remaining members are various species of darters. Members of the perch family have rather slender, elongated bodies and a large bone on the gill cover that ends in a flat spine. The spiny and soft portions of the dorsal fin are completely separated.  

yellow perch species profile characteristics of a yellow perch

 

walleye species profile

characteristics of a walleye

 

sauger species profile

characteristics of a sauger

 

Get tips from our fisheries biologists on how to fish for yellow perch and walleye.

 

The native brook trout and the naturalized rainbow and brown trout are the only coldwater gamefish in Iowa. Trout are covered by tiny scales and their fins have no spines. They have an adipose fin on the back behind the dorsal fin.

All Iowa trout streams, more than 100, are located in nine northeastern counties, roughly east of the Cedar River and north of the Cedar Rapids and Maquoketa. Most coldwater streams are in private ownership, with trout fishing allowed by public access agreements between the Department of Natural Resources and the landowners. Natural reproduction of brown and brook trout presently occurs in a few streams, but most trout found in Iowa streams are produced at Manchester, Decorah and Big Spring trout hatcheries.

 

brown trout species profile

characteristics of a brown trout

 

rainbow trout species profile

characteristics of a rainbow trout

 

brook trout species profile

characteristics of a brook trout

 

Learn how to fish for trout with these tips from our fisheries biologists.

 

These important gamefish have three species in Iowa: northern pike, muskellunge, and grass pickerel. Members of the pike family have long, cylindrical bodies with a short dorsal fin far back on the body. Their heads are flattened with duckbill-shaped jaws lined with very sharp teeth.

 

northern pike species profile characteristics of a northern pike

 

muskellunge species profile

characteristics of a muskellunge

 

The Iowa DNR used data collected from muskellunge in the Iowa Great Lakes (East and West Okoboji, and Spirit Lake) to create a length-weight conversion chart to help catch-and-release anglers determine the weight of their fish. Length-weight Conversion Chart Length-weight Conversion Chart  

Learn how to fish for muskie with these tips from our fisheries biologists.

This is a very diverse family with 50 representatives in Iowa; most are small, less than 12 inches long as adults. Introduced species (carp, white amur, and goldfish) may reach large sizes. Native minnows are similar in appearance to suckers, but have fewer than 10 rays in the dorsal fin. Minnows have scaleless heads.

common carp species profile

characteristics of a common carp

 

white amur (grass carp) species profile

characteristics of a white amur

 

 

Once referred to as "sea basses", three members of this family are found in Iowa. Two native species are the white bass and yellow bass, and the hybrid striped bass is an exotic species. This hybrid, also known as the Palmetto bass, is the cross of a female ocean striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and a male white bass. This fish, which does not occur in natural populations, was originally hybridized in the southern United States as a rapid growing fish adaptable to freshwater environments. Hybrid striped bass also provide a trophy fishery, with the current state record weighing nearly 20 pounds. Hybrid striped bass were stocked recently in community lakes such as Lake Manawa, Gray's Lake, Blue Heron Lake and Ada Hayden Lake, to improve the quality of these urban fisheries.

Get tips from our fisheries biologists on how to fish for hybrid striped bass and yellow bass.

Sixteen species have been collected from Iowa waters, but several are listed as threatened or extirpated. The characteristic mouth is on the underside of the head and surrounded by fleshy lips. The head is scaleless and the fins lack rays.

Many suckers are often confused with minnow species, but they differ in many features. Most suckers have 10 or more dorsal fin rays, which is always one or two more than the native minnows. The pharyngeal tooth pattern is wholly different in the suckers.

Primitive fish in Iowa include the paddlefish, bowfin, sturgeon, gar and lamprey. They lack one or several of the features more "advanced" fish species have, such as jaws, ganoid scale type, lack of vertebrae, body structure, or phylogenetic relations.


Iowa has several peculiar families with only one or two members. Some of the more common fish include the freshwater drum, brook stickleback, and gizzard shad. Mottled and slimy sculpins are found in the trout streams of northeast Iowa. American eel, mooneye, and burbot are only found in the largest of Iowa's rivers. Other unique Iowa fish include the central mudminnow, brook silverside, banded killifish, blackstripe topminnow and the trout-perch.


Iowa Fish Species Profiles
Search for Fish: Sort Reverse
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Name Scientific Family State Record
Lake Sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens Acipenseridae Not allowed for threatened or endangered species.
Pallid sturgeon Scaphirhynchus albus Acipenseridae 68 pounds
Shovelnose sturgeon Scaphirhynchus platorynchus Acipenseridae 12 pounds - Des Moines River, Van Buren County, April 1974 - Randy Hemm, Douds, Iowa
Bowfin Amia calva Amiidae 11 lbs 9 oz; 31.5 in.- Pool 10, Mississippi River, Clayton County, May 1994 - Bill Greten, Blue Grass, Iowa
American Eel Anguilla rostrata Anguillidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Pirate Perch Aphredoderus sayanus Aphredoderidae State Records are not documented for non-game species
Brook Silverside Labidesthes sicculus Atherinopsidae State Records are not documented for non-species game.
Bigmouth Buffalo Ictiobus cyprinellus Catostomidae 64 lbs 6 oz.; 41.5 in. - Lake Manawa, Pottawattamie County, April 2007 - Ronald Anderson, Omaha, NE
Black Buffalo Ictiobus niger Catostomidae 63 lbs 6 oz., 48.9 in. - Mississippi River Pool 9, Allamakee County, 8/14/1999 - Jim Winters, Jesup, IA
Black Redhorse Moxostoma duquesnei Catostomidae Not allowed for threatened or endangered species
Blue Sucker Cycleptus elongatus Catostomidae 15 lbs. 6 oz.; 33.25 in. - Iowa River, Johnson County, 4/11/2011 - Steven Jones, Iowa City
Golden Redhorse Moxostoma erythrurum Catostomidae Currently open
Greater Redhorse Moxostoma valenciennesi Catostomidae 5.98 pounds, 23 inches – Cedar River, Floyd County, August 2017 – Dereck Jacobsen, Fremont, NE
Highfin carpsucker Carpiodes velifer Catostomidae  
Lake chubsucker Erimyzon sucetta Catostomidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Northern hog sucker Hypentelium nigricans Catostomidae  
Quillback Carpiodes cyprinus Catostomidae  
River carpsucker Carpiodes carpio Catostomidae  
River Redhorse Moxostoma carinatum Catostomidae  
Shorthead redhorse Moxostoma macrolepidotum Catostomidae 2 lbs 6 oz; 18 in. - Des Moines River, Webster County, Oct. 2016 - Brandon Stewart-Mitchell, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Silver Redhorse Moxostoma anisurum Catostomidae 5 lbs 1 oz; 23 in. - Des Moines River, Webster County, Oct. 2016 - Brandon Stewart-Mitchell, Fort Dodge, Iowa
Smallmouth Buffalo Ictiobus bubalus Catostomidae 18.80 pounds - Missouri River, Harrison County, April 2019 - Chris Watts
Spotted sucker Minytrema melanops Catostomidae  
Sucker Cycleptus elongatus Catostomidae 15 pounds 1 ounce - Missouri River, Monona County, Sept. 1983 - Glen E. Dittman, Onawa, Iowa
White Sucker Catostomus commersonii Catostomidae 5.06 pounds, 21.3 in – Otter Creek, Osceola County, March 2016 – Austin Steffen, Sibley, IA
Black Crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus Centrarchidae 3 lbs, 14 oz, 18 in. - Three Mile Lake, Union County, 6/5/2013 - Dale Klein, Omaha, Nebraska.
Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus Centrarchidae 3 lbs 2 oz; 12.88 in. - Farm Pond, Madison County, July 1986 - Phil Algreen, Earlham, Iowa
Crappie Pomoxis spp. Centrarchidae  
Green Sunfish Lepomis cyanellus Centrarchidae 2 pound 1 ounce, 12 1/2 inches, farm pond, July 2000, Ralph Mayer, Knoxville, Iowa
Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides Centrarchidae 10 pounds, 12 ounces - Lake Fisher, Davis County, May 1984 - Patricia Zar, Davenport, Iowa
Longear Sunfish Lepomis megalotis Centrarchidae  
Northern Sunfish Lepomis peltastes Centrarchidae
Orangespotted sunfish Lepomis humilis Centrarchidae none
Pumpkinseed Lepomis gibbosus Centrarchidae 0.90 lbs; 10 in. - Farm Pond, Pottawattamie County, July 2016 - John Perkins, Council Bluffs, Iowa
Redear Sunfish Lepomis microlophus Centrarchidae 2.31 pounds, 12.8 in - farm pond, Van Buren County, Oct. 2018 - Elijah Parrett,
Rock Bass Ambloplites rupestris Centrarchidae 1 pounds, 8 ounces - Mississippi River, Dubuque County, June 1973 - Jim Driscoll, Dubuque, Iowa
Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu Centrarchidae 7 pounds, 12 ounces - West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County, September 1990 - Rick Gray, Dickinson, Iowa
Spotted bass Micropterus punctulatus Centrarchidae 2 pounds - Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County, May 2013 - James Steffen, Solon, Iowa
Warmouth Lepomis gulosus Centrarchidae 1.13 pounds - farm pond, Taylor County, May 2018 - Celsey Rynearson, Milo, Iowa
White Crappie Pomoxis annularis Centrarchidae record 4 pounds, 9 ounces - Green Castle Lake, Marshall County, May 1981 - Ted Trowbridge, Marshalltown, Iowa
Alabama Shad Alosa alabamae Clupeidae N/A - species likely extirpated from Iowa
Gizzard Shad Dorosoma cepedianum Clupeidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Skipjack Herring Alosa chrysochloris Clupeidae  
Threadfin Shad Dorosoma petenense Clupeidae
Mottled sculpin Cottus bairdii Cottidae  
Slimy Sculpin Cottus cognatus Cottidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Bigeye Shiner Notropis boops Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Bighead Carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis Cyprinidae 93 lbs 8 oz.; 56 in. - Rathbun Reservoir, Appanoose County, June 2012 - Larry Sparks, Mystic, IA
Bigmouth Shiner Notropis dorsalis Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Blackchin Shiner Notropis heterodon Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Blacknose Dace Rhinichthys atratulus Cyprinidae Grows up to 4 inches. State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Blacknose Shiner Notropis heterolepis Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Bluntnose Minnow Pimephales notatus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Brassy Minnow Hybognathus hankinsoni Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Bullhead Minnow Pimephales vigilax Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Carmine Shiner Notropis percobromus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Central Stoneroller Campostoma anomalum Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Channel Shiner Notropis wickliffi Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Common Carp Cyprinus carpio Cyprinidae 50 pounds - Glenwood Lake, Mills County, May 1969 - Fred Hougland, Glenwood, Iowa
Common Shiner Luxilus cornutus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Creek Chub Semotilus atromaculatus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Emerald shiner Notropis atherinoides Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Fathead Minnow Pimephales promelas Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Flathead Chub Platygobio gracilis Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Ghost shiner Notropis buchanani Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Golden Shiner Notemigonus crysoleucas Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Goldfish Carassius auratus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella Cyprinidae 85 pounds 8 ounces, 48 inches long- caught in May 2007 by Jesse Lane Greenfield, IA
Gravel Chub Erimystax x-punctatus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Hornyhead chub Nocomis biguttatus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Ironcolor shiner Notropis chalybaeus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Lake chub Couesius plumbeus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Largescale stoneroller Campostoma oligolepis Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Longnose dace Rhinichthys cataractae Cyprinidae 4 - 5 inches
Mimic Shiner Notropis volucellus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Mississippi Silvery Minnow Hybognathus nuchalis Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Ozark minnow Notropis nubilus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Pallid Shiner Hybopsis amnis Cyprinidae  
Pearl Dace Margariscus margarita Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Plains Minnow Hybognathus placitus Cyprinidae
Pugnose Minnow Opsopoeodus emiliae Cyprinidae
Pugnose Shiner Notropis anogenus Cyprinidae
Red shiner Cyprinella lutrensis Cyprinidae not recorded
Redfin shiner Lythrurus umbratilus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Redside Dace Clinostomus elongatus Cyprinidae
River Shiner Notropis blennius Cyprinidae
Rosyface Shiner Notropis rubellus Cyprinidae
Sand Shiner Notropis stramineus Cyprinidae
Shoal Chub Macrhybopsis hyostoma Cyprinidae
Sicklefin Chub Macrhybopsis meeki Cyprinidae
Silver Carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix Cyprinidae 40 pounds, 42.5 inches - farm pond, Wapello County, May 10, 2016 - Randy Conover, Eldon, Iowa
Silver chub Macrhybopsis storeriana Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Silverband Shiner Notropis shumardi Cyprinidae
Southern Redbelly Dace Chrosomus erythrogaster Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Spotfin shiner Cyprinella spiloptera Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Spottail Shiner Notropis hudsonius Cyprinidae
Sturgeon Chub Macrhybopsis gelida Cyprinidae
Suckermouth minnow Phenacobius mirabilis Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
Topeka Shiner Notropis topeka Cyprinidae Not allowed for threatened or endangered species.
Weed shiner Notropis texanus Cyprinidae State Records are not documented for non-game species.
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