Do you know your state fish?

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September 1, 2020
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Do you know your state fish?

America is a unified country, but it's also a collection of states. To preserve and honor each state’s unique heritage and history, those states boast their own flags, songs, and even their own soil. Most states have actually written into a law a specific state fish. Sometimes the designated swimmer is chosen because it's the most abundant in that particular state's waters. Other times, the fish serves as a central component of the state's history, whether it nourished state inhabitants, served as an important commercial export, or captured the imaginations of the state's native populations and earliest settlers.

Most of America's 50 states so deeply revere a particular fish that lawmakers put pen to paper to codify its status as the underwater inhabitant with which the state is associated with in the eyes of the world. Here's a look at America's official state fish.

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Clue: Alabama

Clue (freshwater): This fish is considered to be one of the most aggressive predators in its ecosystem, even though it is the most popular game fish in the United States, particularly in the southern states. Catch it swimming in a body of freshwater nearby.

Clue (saltwater): Reaching 280 pounds and nicknamed the "silver king," these fish can be found along the Alabama coast and Mobile estuary. The species' greatest predatory advantage is its ability to its inflate its swim bladder with air like a lung, providing an edge when the water's oxygen levels are low.

Answer: Alabama

Answers: Largemouth bass (freshwater), fighting tarpon (saltwater)


Clue: Alaska

Clue: Massive beasts that can weigh more than 100 pounds, this fish's instinct-driven habits epitomize the circle of life. They hatch in freshwater, live briefly in the ocean, and then swim thousands of miles to return to the same stream where they were born to lay eggs of their own before dying.

Answer: Alaska

Answer: King salmon


Clue: Arizona

Clue: This fish is found nowhere in the entire world beyond the approximately 820 miles of cold, gravel-bottomed streams of Arizona's White Mountains. Once pushed to the edge of extinction, it is rebounding but still endangered.



Answer: Arizona

Answer: Apache trout


Clue: Arkansas

Clue: Gov. Asa Hutchinson officially made this prehistoric creature the state fish of Arkansas in March 2019 following an 11-year-old boy's campaign. The primitive fish is the largest species in its family and is one of the biggest freshwater fish in North America.



Answer: Arkansas

Answer: Alligator gar

Clue: California

Clue (freshwater): California is the Golden State, and the name of this fish incorporates both the state's proper name and its nickname. Once found only in a few cold streams on the Kern River, hatcheries have now dramatically expanded its range.  

Clue (saltwater): This vibrant orange fish from the damselfish family was named after a 19th-century Italian military and political figure. These fish ply subtropical waters of the Pacific Ocean around the Central Coast of California down through Baja California.

Answers: California

Answers: California golden trout (freshwater), Garibaldi (saltwater)

Clue: Colorado

Clue: Although its name sounds intimidating, this fish faces more trouble than it creates. Listed as endangered, it was driven to the brink of extinction by pollution and the introduction of invasive species.


Answer: Colorado

Answer: Greenback cutthroat trout


Clue: Connecticut

Clue: This fish's connection to the New England state of Connecticut is not merely symbolic. The state's inhabitants know it’s time to welcome spring when these fish begin running the Long Island Sound at the end of every winter.



Answer: Connecticut

Answer: American shad


Clue: Delaware

Clue: This fish has many aliases, including yellow-fin trout, yellowmouth, gray trout, sea trout, tide runner, and squeteague. Its proper name, however, comes from its weak mouth muscles, which have foiled many heavy-handed anglers whose hooks often tear-free.



Answer: Delaware

Answer: Weakfish


Clue: Florida

Clue (freshwater): Known for the deep notch in its dorsal, this occasionally cannibalistic predator can grow to weigh 15 pounds. It's so revered in the region that three other Deep South states have also named it their official state fish.

Clue (saltwater): The fastest fish in the world, these creatures can reach 68 mph. As members of the billfish family, their upper jaws come out far past their lower jaws to make a spear that's handy when fishing for squid, octopus, anchovies, and sardines.

Answer: Florida

Answers: Largemouth bass (freshwater), Atlantic sailfish (saltwater)

Clue: Georgia

Clue (freshwater): Despite its name, this fish is actually an elongated sunfish. Also known as lineside bass, green trout, and black bass, they're predators that prowl the state's vegetation-rich freshwater.

Clue (coldwater game fish): This fish is easily spotted by a white line tracing the front of its bottom fin, and is the only native fish of its kind in the Southeast.  

Clue (saltwater): Nicknames for this game fish include spot tail bass, channel bass, and puppy drum. They're found throughout the coastal Atlantic Ocean and in brackish waterways at inlets and bays.

Answer: Georgia

Answers: Largemouth bass (freshwater), Southern Appalachian brook trout (coldwater game fish), red drum (saltwater game fish)


Clue: Hawaii

Clue: Officials didn't make things easy for the linguistically challenged when they named this the official state fish of Hawaii in 1985. One might have better luck pronouncing its alternative name, the Hawaiian triggerfish.



Answer: Hawaii

Answer: Humuhumunukunukuapua`a


Clue: Idaho

Clue: Not only was this fish a critical staple for early settlers in the state of Idaho, but its sensitivity to changes in the ecosystem make it a crucial barometer for environmental health. It's immediately identifiable by the reddish-orange slash under its chin.



Answer: Idaho

Answer: Cutthroat trout


Clue: Illinois

Clue: Dining on everything from algae and crawfish to snails and insects, these predators aren't known for being finicky. Members of the sunfish family, they can thrive in a range of habitats, including ponds, swamps, and lakes.



Answer: Illinois

Answer: Bluegill


Clue: Indiana

Clue: Indiana doesn't have a state fish, but one insect is held in high enough regard to represent the Hoosier state. It, too, almost didn't earn a title sanctified by legislation—until relentless pressure from a group of schoolchildren forced the state legislature's hand.



Answer: Indiana

Answer: Say's firefly


Clue: Iowa

Clue: This fish will eat just about anything. Its young prefer deep water, and females lay eggs in crevices like hollow logs for males to watch over until the eggs hatch.

Answer: Iowa

Answer: Channel catfish


Clue: Kansas

Clue: Kansas went for years without an official state fish before legislation in 2018 put the state closer to adopting this widely popular fish that around 8 million fishermen go after every year. 

Answer: Kansas

Answer: Channel catfish


Clue: Kentucky

Clue: One will find this member of the sunfish family swimming in fast-moving water. Females lay as many as 47,000 eggs in gravel nests, which are then ferociously guarded by males for up to four weeks after hatching.



Answer: Kentucky

Answer: Kentucky spotted bass

Clue: Louisiana

Clue: Also known as the white crappie, male members of this species dig gravel nests where females then lay their eggs. This schooling fish can grow as large as 7 pounds, although most are much smaller.


Answer: Louisiana

Answer: White perch


Clue: Maine

Clue: Although this fish is a close relative of an ocean-dwelling species, it never quite makes it to the Atlantic—just as its name implies. Instead, it lives its entire life in freshwater lakes in Canada and the northern reaches of the United States.



Answer: Maine

Answer: Landlocked salmon


Clue: Maryland

Clue: This fish is known as much for the fight it gives anglers as it is for its trademark silver and iridescent stripes. They can live as long as 30 years.



Answer: Maryland

Answer: Striped Bass 


Clue: Massachusetts

Clue: The flaky, white fish in Massachusetts’ staple dish, fish and chips, often comes from this species. A central part of the state's heritage, the Puritans used it for both food and fertilizer.



Answer: Massachusetts

Answer: Cod


Clue: Michigan

Clue: This fish can only survive in clean, cool water. Lucky for it, that's what Michigan is known for.



Answer: Michigan

Answer: Brook trout


Clue: Minnesota

Clue: Thin, and usually gold and olive, this freshwater fish is one of the most popular among anglers. Its excellent night vision makes it a skilled hunter in dark water.



Answer: Minnesota

Answer: Walleye


Clue: Mississippi

Clue: This ravenous predator will eat invertebrates and other fish—including smaller members of its own kind. Able to grow longer than 20 inches, it’s a popular fish identified with several states in the region.



Answer: Mississippi

Answer: Largemouth bass


Clue: Missouri

Clue (freshwater): This fish's trademark whiskers give it a keen sense of smell. They usually weigh in at just a few pounds, but the biggest on record are giants that have grown to over 50 pounds.

Clue (aquatic animal): These ray-finned fish have evolved without many changes over the last 75 million years. Their closest relatives are sturgeon, another species of large, prehistoric fish. 

Answer: Missouri

Answers: Channel catfish (fish), paddlefish (aquatic animal)


Clue: Montana

Clue: This fish was chosen to represent the state 40 years ago because it reflects the Montana way of life. The threatened species can only thrive in a pristine, natural environment that's free from pollution and other encroachment from human civilization.



Answer: Montana

Answer: Blackspotted cutthroat trout


Clue: Nebraska

Clue: These survivors can live in ponds, reservoirs, rivers, and lakes. This fish’s entire body is covered in taste buds, mostly in its feline-esque face, which helps it find food in the cloudy, muddy bottom water it prefers.



Answer: Nebraska

Answer: Channel catfish


Clue: Nevada

Clue: This fish is found in 14 of Nevada's 17 counties. As long as the water is clean, it can thrive everywhere from the state's alpine lakes to creeks high up in the mountains to the warm alkaline lakes and streams in the lowlands where other species of its kind can't survive.



Answer: Nevada

Answer: Lahontan cutthroat trout


Clue: New Hampshire

Clue (freshwater): This fish is instantly recognizable by its brilliant colors and patterns. Found mostly in clean, cool mountain streams, they have yellow, elongated spots covering their bodies that can range from red to orange to olive green.

Clue (saltwater): Rockfish are big predators—they can get to be almost 70 pounds—found all along New Hampshire's shoreline. Young spawn in streams and estuaries and made a home in saltwater habitats by winter after they hatch. 

Answer: New Hampshire

Answers: Brook trout (freshwater), striped bass (saltwater game fish)


Clue: New Jersey

Clue (freshwater): These opportunists will make a living any way they can, provided the water they inhabit is clean, cool, and clear. They prefer aquatic insects, but they'll gobble up any insect that falls into the water, and even dine on smaller fish and crayfish.

Clue (saltwater game fish): This fish is the largest species of its order. Adults are anadromous, meaning they leave the ocean to spawn in freshwater. Unlike salmon, these fish can spawn multiple times throughout their lifetime (although not necessarily every year).

Answer: New Jersey

Answers: Brook trout (freshwater), striped bass (saltwater game fish)


Clue: New Mexico

Clue: The introduction of rainbow trout has put a lot of pressure on this fish in recent years. For anglers looking to hook one, keep in mind they can only live in cold, clear moving water.



Answer: New Mexico

Answer: New Mexico cutthroat trout


Clue: New York

Clue (freshwater): One of the more popular fish claimed as the aquatic representative of several states, this species requires cool, clean water to thrive. Hook one in many of the Empire State's streams, lakes, and brooks.

Clue (saltwater): Populations of this fish along the coast are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The species can reach five feet long and 77 pounds.

Answer: New York

Answers: Brook trout (freshwater), striped bass (saltwater)


Clue: North Carolina

Clue (freshwater): These fish are sometimes known as specs, thanks to their unique spots. Found in the state's mountain streams, this favorite of sport fishermen is the only freshwater fish of its entire species that's native to North Carolina.

Clue (saltwater): Most fish of this kind max out around 30 or 40 pounds, but some of the biggest can reach 75 pounds. The reddish fish is known for its strength and has become a popular cajun delicacy.


Answer: North Carolina

Answer: Southern Appalachian brook trout (freshwater), channel bass (saltwater)


Clue: North Dakota

Clue: This voracious ambush predator gets its name because its body resembles a long, pole-like weapon wielded during Medieval times. North Dakota is known to have giants lurking in its waters.



Answer: North Dakota

Answer: Northern pike


Clue: Ohio

Clue: Ohio doesn't recognize a state fish, but it does have an amphibian all its own. This one is aptly named for the bright spots that run the length of its body.  



Answer: Ohio

Answer: Spotted salamander


Clue: Oklahoma

Clue: Tall but paper-thin, anglers pursue these elegant and delicious fish in Oklahoma's rivers, ponds, and lakes. A fisherman will know they caught one by the fish’s distinctive horizontal black stripes.


Answer: Oklahoma

Answer: White bass


Clue: Oregon

Clue: Also known as tyee, king, and spring, along with its common surname, this fish is the largest Pacific-dwelling kind among its species—although its life begins and ends in freshwater. Its vast range spans from Southern California to the Canadian Arctic.



Answer: Oregon

Answer: Chinook salmon


Clue: Pennsylvania

Clue: Pennsylvania's waters are teeming with this fish and several of its cousins, which prowl the state's rivers, streams, brooks, and even the ocean-like habitat of Lake Erie on Pennsylvania's northwest border. For those looking to catch one, head to water that is pure, cold, and clean.



Answer: Pennsylvania

Answer: Brook trout


Clue: Rhode Island

Clue: Known for longevity and size, these fish can live to be 30 years old and grow to over 4 feet, with females becoming much larger than males. Because of the distinct horizontal lines that adorn their bodies, they're often called stripers.



Answer: Rhode Island

Answer: Striped bass


Clue: South Carolina

Clue: Big and aggressive, sport fishermen prize this fish for not just its size, but the fight it puts up once hooked. The state's Santee Cooper Lakes are this breed's original habitat, and South Carolina is still known as the premier destination to catch them.



Answer: South Carolina

Answer: Striped bass


Clue: South Dakota

Clue: Expect to hook one of these if fishing in one of South Dakota's many chilly, clear lakes, particularly in larger bodies of water in the state's glacial lakes and in the Missouri River system. Their sensitive eyes compel them to dive deep during the day and ascend to shallower waters after dark.



Answer: South Dakota

Answer: Walleye


Clue: Tennessee

Clue (sport fish): This fish has been the Volunteer State's official game fish since 2005 when it replaced its larger-mouthed cousin, which is still the official fish for several other states. Tennessee is the only state to honor this fish as its own.

Clue (state commercial fish): This fish is the most highly populated throughout the United States, which makes sense when one learns it's the official state fish of not just Tennessee but Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska, as well. As eating opportunists, they can wreak havoc if they're introduced to non-native waterways. These fish stand out for having no scales and being monogamous for life. 

Answer: Tennessee

Answers: Smallmouth bass (sport fish), channel catfish (state commercial fish)

Clue: Texas

Clue: This fish is native only to the swift-moving streams in the Texas Central Hill Country, which is home to the headwaters of the Colorado, Guadalupe, and San Antonio rivers. Powerful but small, it's actually a member of the sunfish family.



Answer: Texas

Answer: Guadalupe bass


Clue: Utah

Clue: This fish was a critical food source for both Native Americans and the earliest settlers in what is now the rugged and wild state of Utah. Although it was believed to be extinct just a few decades ago, the fish is now making a rebound across the state.



Answer: Utah

Answer: Bonneville cutthroat trout


Clue: Vermont

Clue (coldwater): This native northern species of fish has lost much of its habitat to land use, which inspired a large-scale restoration partnership between state and federal agencies. Despite its name, this fish is actually a char.

Clue (warm water): Vermont claims two fish, based on habitat temperature. The state is far more famous, however, for this warm-water dweller, which is known for its light-sensitive eyes.


Answer: Vermont

Answers: Brook trout (coldwater), walleye (warm water)


Clue: Virginia

Clue (freshwater): One of the most legendary fish in Virginia's long angling tradition, this fish also takes top billing in several other states. They love dining on nymphs, aquatic insects that live under rocks, but they're opportunists that will eat pretty much whatever they can catch and digest.

Clue (saltwater): This fish is recognizable by its stocky body marked with seven or eight horizontal stripes that stretch from gills to tail. The 2018 stock assessment showed this species has been subject to overfishing.

Answer: Virginia

Answers: Brook trout (freshwater), striped bass (salt water) 


Clue: Washington

Clue: Known for their bright, white underbellies and gray, spotted backs that include flecks of silver from head to tail, this fish also shimmers with opalescent pink. It mirrors the classic behavior of salmon by returning to freshwater rivers to spawn.



Answer: Washington

Answer: Steelhead trout


Clue: West Virginia

Clue: One of the country's foremost fishing destinations, West Virginia named this vibrant, feisty fish to represent it because it embodies the state's mountaineer spirit. Chosen over smallmouth bass, musky, bluegill, and largemouth bass, it's now popular in many states but is native to West Virginia.



Answer: West Virginia

Answer: Brook trout


Clue: Wisconsin

Clue: Long and lean, it's easy to mix up this fish with the northern pike. Commonly nicknamed the musky, it is a member of the pike family—the longest of them all, in fact—and it's relatively rare in the United States.



Answer: Wisconsin

Answer: Muskellunge


Clue: Wyoming

Clue: There are many different and widely varied kinds of this species of fish, which is native to the western United States. They can live in a variety of waters, and like salmon, they're called by instinct to return home to their birthplace to spawn.



Answer: Wyoming

Answer: Cutthroat trout

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