Lawmaker casts Iowa Darter as State Fish

DES MOINES — Iowa is one of three states that do not have an official state fish. A northwest Iowa legislator’s proposal could change that.

State Representative John Wills of Spirit Lake said the nomination came from a constituent. “He approached me said: ‘There’s a fish in Iowa called the Iowa Darter. It’s the only fish in the state of Iowa that’s native to Iowa and it has Iowa in its name,’” Wills told Radio Iowa. “He said: ‘I think that would make a great state fish.’”

Wills expects to hear other names floated for state fish, like the blue gill or the channel cat, but he is casting his lot with his constituent. “I said: ‘I’ll do it and have a little fun with it,’” Wills said.

The Iowa Darter, by the way, is little.

“It’s only about four inches long. It is found only in good, high quality water bodies and it’s a really pretty, kind of rainbowy kind of fish — so it’s so it’s kind of neat.”

Male and female Iowa Darters have different color patterns, although you probably will never see one. They often dart through the water faster than the human eye can track. To see the Iowa Darter become the State Fish, Wills will have to convince his colleagues in the House and Senate to pass a resolution he’s sponsoring. Iowa has just a handful of state symbols.

“There’s some states that get crazy with it and there’s a state sandwich and a state dessert. South Dakota had a state dessert and somebody said: ‘We should have a pastry, too,’ so now they have a state pastry,” Wills said. “We don’t do that here in Iowa. We don’t get crazy like that, but we have a state bird.”

The legislature designated the American Goldfinch as the state bird in 1933. The legislature named the wild prairie rose the state flower 127 years ago. In 1961, the legislature declared the oak the state tree and in 1967 Iowa lawmakers named the geode the state rock to promote tourism in the Keokuk area where the rocks — which have a crystal interior — are plentiful. Since then, there have been proposals to name the ladybug the state insect and the catfish as the state fish, but none were able to get the Iowa legislature’s endorsement.