The campaign in Iowa seeks to be designated state fish
The Iowa darter has every color of the rainbow and is indisputably a handsome man. Is this species ready – and worthy – to represent the state for which it is named?
Iowa Rep. John Wells, R-Spirit Lake, believes the time for the Iowa shooters has come. He introduced a resolution in the Iowa House that would designate it as the official state fish. The proposed resolution cleared a hurdle Thursday by winning support from an Iowa House subcommittee.
If you’ve never heard of the Iowa Darter, this is no surprise. They are about 2½ inches tall, and don’t hang like trophies over someone’s fireplace.
Although they are colorful, their other claim to fame is their speed. They are often able to move along the bottom of a river or lake faster than the human eye can follow, making them difficult to see in the wild.
47 states have an official fish. Why not Iowa?
Iowa is one of only three states that does not have a state fish, the others being Indiana and Ohio.
It’s not as if there haven’t been attempts to designate a state fish for Iowa.
The perennial previous candidate was the channel catfish. She enjoyed the same success as the late Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, who famously ran unsuccessfully for president nine times.
more:Catfish fishing in Iowa? That’s why experts say June, home of National Catfish Day, is the best
The failed quest to have the catfish named Iowa’s official state fish was the dream of the late George Marzek of West Burlington, an outdoor artist and writer who pushed for it from 1968 until his death in 2006 at age 82.
Tom Sands, then a Republican member of the Iowa House of Representatives from Columbus Junction, was one of the lawmakers who tried to champion Marzek’s case over the years. But once released into the Sea of Lawmakers, the mustachioed, scaleless channel cat quickly fell prey to other fish.
“Designating an official state fish has attracted a lot of attention in the Legislature, but not just for catfish,” Sands said.
“It seemed like every time I brought this up, other legislators would come forward with four or five other fish they’d rather name.”
Former state Sen. Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, also took up the cause, with similar results. He remembers Marzek’s persistence.
more:Bridge hunters in downtown Des Moines search for prowlers lurking in the shadows of skyscrapers
“I ran into him (Marzek) and he kept talking about how great channel catfish were. He probably called me three or four times during the session about it,” Courtney said.
But Courtney said the push for statewide recognition of channel catfish was ultimately insufficient because other legislators didn’t see the designation as important enough to devote time to it.
Iowa Darter benefits from evolving campaign
Now, nearly 20 years later, the flashiest new candidate for state fisheries office has entered the political arena with the encouragement of the Iowa chapter of the American Fisheries Society. The organization produced a “campaign video” for Iowa that would make many politicians envy.
He underestimates the region’s other state fish, which largely consist of a collection of common bass, pike, and yes, channel cat.
“Looking at the state fish throughout the upper Midwest is predictable and, frankly, a little tiring. Iowa’s catfish have bright colors and behavior that are unmatched by other state fish in the Midwest and reflect our heritage. “There is nothing unique about the channel catfish; “The narrator says in the video.
In submitting its offer for the Iowa darter, the Fisheries Association noted several qualities that it believes make it the best choice. that it:
- Settlement in Iowa.
- Representative of local fish diversity.
- An indicator of improved water quality.
“The goldfinch (the state bird), the prairie harrier (the state flower), the hawksbill, and the tornado are all unique to Iowa. Why don’t we hunt our state? The fisheries association asks in its video.
No other creature bears the name Iowa
The Iowa shield was first discovered and documented in 1859 by a French biologist and then rediscovered in 1884 by another biological team doing survey work. During 1892 it was thought that this species could not be found outside the state of the same name, but the range is actually very large, extending from Wyoming and Montana to Vermont.
The Iowa fish can be found “quite often” with the right equipment and knowledge of where to look, said Mike Hawkins, an area fisheries management biologist with the DNR at Spirit Lake, one of its favorite habitats.
However, the small fish is still considered a “species in need of greater protection,” Hawkins said, meaning their numbers are declining and need attention to prevent the need to list them as threatened under state or federal regulations. The main concern is the degradation of their habitat through river straightness, sedimentation and excess nutrients.
more:This giant fish was caught in Iowa, but it wasn’t the largest that day, the DNR says
In addition to its colorful markings, the Iowa darter has uniqueness in its name.
No other fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants or bacteria have the word “Iowa” in their surname, Hawkins said.
The channel’s fans are not ready to compromise
more:Chiefs or 49ers? Blank Park Zoo asked its catfish to choose this year’s Super Bowl winner.
The Fisheries Society points out that Iowa “is late in naming the state fish, and not because we haven’t tried. What if we don’t name the right fish?”
But the old canal’s legislative activists, Courtney and Sands, remain unconvinced.
“Man, I hope they don’t pick a garter,” Kourtney said when told of the latest effort.
“Every restaurant on the Mississippi River from Dubuque to Keokuk has catfish on the menu. People in Iowa love their catfish,” he said.
Despite their bright colors in the wild, the Iowa Darter fails to achieve an important aesthetic in Sand’s eyes.
“All I know is that catfish looks really good on the plate,” Sands said.
Kevin Baskins covers jobs and the economy for the Des Moines Register. Contact him at email@example.com.