State Fish

State symbols mirror the things we believe represent us as people. The state of Iowa has many state symbols, but no official State Fish.

Iowa is now one of only 3 states without a designated state fish (the others are Indiana and Ohio). The Iowa Chapter considered all native species for a potential State Fish, but four species gained member support with video "pitches": the Iowa Darter, Bluegill, Orangespotted Sunfish, and Channel Catfish. Chapter members voted and recommended the Iowa Darter as an incredibly charismatic and unique fish species to represent the state.

Male Iowa Darter, by Joe Tomelleri and used with permission
Female Iowa Darter, by Joe Tomelleri and used with permission

The Iowa Darter is:

  • Endemic to Iowa
  • Colorful
  • Representative of native fish diversity
  • An indicator of better water quality
  • Unique

The Iowa Darter is quite special, and was documented as early as 1889 by Meek (A Report upon the Fishes of Iowa, Based Upon Observation and Collections Made During 1889, 1890, and 1891). It is not only native to streams, but also to glacial lakes and wetlands, all threatened but essential habitats.

To learn more about the Iowa Darter, check out these resources:

We thank our entire Chapter for their involvement and voting of this recommendation, and the dedicated members who submitted nomination videos for us to enjoy. Also, a special thank you to Mike Hawkins, Kim Hawkins and Darcy Cashatt for the video they put together to explain why they supported the Iowa Darter for the Iowa State Fish. 

How can I help?

Teach about it in your classroom!

Download this informational presentation for teaching: 

Contact your legislator 

We encourage you to contact your legislators if you feel passionate about establishing a State Fish!

Dear Senator/Representative (Last Name)

I am writing to you today because I have become aware that Iowa is one of only three states in the US without a state fish.  I understand that in the past there have been some efforts to name the channel catfish as Iowa's state fish.  However, there are already four other states (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Tennessee) that have selected the Channel Catfish as their state fish. I hope you agree with me that I would like to see Iowa select a fish that is more distinctive and uniquely Iowan.  I would like you to consider the Iowa Darter for Iowa's State Fish.  Many states select a state fish with some linkage in its name to their state or a geographic feature of their state, such as the Florida Largemouth Bass and the Kentucky Spotted Bass.  The Iowa Darter is the only fish with such a connection to the State of Iowa.  Iowa Darters are among Iowa's most colorful and beautiful fish.  They prefer clear, clean water to live in; vegetated areas of stream, glacial lakes, marshes, and ponds. Iowa Darters are most abundant in the natural lakes of Iowa, but can be found in rivers and streams in northern and central Iowa, as well as the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Iowans are rightfully proud of all things Iowa, so what better for us than the Iowa Darter! 
your name