Fish reappears more than 80 years after vanishing from Iowa waterways

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Longear sunfish found in the Mississippi River - photo from Iowa DNR

A brightly-colored fish, once thought to have vanished from Iowa waterways, has reportedly reappeared in the Mississippi River.

The longear sunfish was once common in bayous around Muscatine, but it has not been positively identified in Iowa since the early 1930s, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“Plowing freed the prairie soil to run into once-clear waters and game fish like brook trout, longear sunfish and grass pickerel disappeared,” according to Iowa DNR wildlife managers.

Leading national fish science experts believe the fish, found recently in the Mississippi River, is indeed a longear sunfish according to the DNR.

The longear sunfish is a freshwater fish found primarily in the Mississippi and Great Lakes areas of North America.  Wisconsin has listed the longear sunfish as threatened since 1979, according to experts at the University of Michigan.

“If this proves to be a longear sunfish, it will be the first time since 1932 the species has been positively identified in Iowa,” said DNR fisheries technician Adam Thiese.  “How it got here, and where it came from, remains to be determined.”

The fish was being held alive, and a fin clip was collected, to verify its species.