When it comes to the flora, fauna, landmarks, and historical items that states designate as official symbols of their heritage or identity, some make sense and some are head-scratchers. We’ve talked about multiple states claiming the same state fish before, but how about states claiming fish that simply don’t make sense?
Almost every state has designated a fish that’s apropos to their history or where they’re located. South Dakota is nuts about their walleyes. New Jersey loves striped bass. Same with muskellunge, or muskies, and Wisconsin. Texans are fierce about their Guadalupe bass. Alaska? King salmon, of course.
But a handful of states’ official fish begs the question: Who the hell was at the helm?
Alabamians have a lot of pride when it comes to hunting, fishing, and football (Roll Tide!). They also treasure Jason Isbell and the Skynyrd tune that will never die. When it comes to fish, their freshwater choice of largemouth bass is right on. Then there’s the state’s official saltwater fish, the Atlantic tarpon. C’mon, the state’s 53-mile shoreline is like that sliver of lake access owned by the guy who insists on inviting all his friends over for beers. The Cotton State simply is not a tarpon destination. You can’t really blame Alabamians for hitching their wagon to the pelagic giant, though. Alabama is a one-stoplight town along its migration route, but the state-record tarpon weighed in at 203 pounds in 1992. Still, claiming tarpon as a state fish is about as big of a stretch as Hurricane Dorian following that Sharpie.
Illinois became a state in 1818. After 186 years, a local boy being elected president, the Sears Tower going up in Chicago, and the first Farm Aid concert, the powers that be finally decided in 1986 to name an official state fish — and they chose the bluegill. The next year, a guy on a private pond caught the state record bluegill, which weighed 3 pounds, 8 ounces. As a matter of fact, every record sunfish species in the state has been caught on a private pond. Makes you wonder whether the Illinois Department of Natural Resources ran out of patience after waiting on some kid to catch his distended pet goldfish.
Oh, Ohio. With 75% of its northern border along Lake Erie, one would think that the walleye or big lake-dwelling brown trout would be the official fish of the Buckeye State. Nope. Ohioans have refused to choose. That’s right, Ohio has no state fish. The state absolutely has records. The walleye record from 1999 stands at about 16 pounds, and the largest brown trout of about 14 pounds was caught in 2012. But truthfully, who the fuck wants to fish when you’ve got giant ag-fed Ohio whitetails to occupy all your obsessive energy?
When it came time to pick their state fish, after everyone in Vermont agreed on brook trout as their first choice, the selection committee in the Green Mountain State must’ve got deep into the green. Vermont has 30-plus-pound lake trout and pike, 20-plus-pound browns, and smallmouth bass pushing 6 pounds for shit’s sake. Kudos to the person who offered up walleye to the committee in between the Cheetos and Cool Ranch Doritos. We salute you, dude.
Back in 1974, Jim Plunkett led the Patriots to a 7-7 season, after beating the Super Bowl VII Champion Dolphins in the first game of that season, while the Red Sox finished barely above .500 under manager Darrell Johnson and settled for third in the American League East. Also that year, Massachusetts picked cod as the state fish. Yes, Bay Staters are rabid Patriots and Sox fans, but wouldn’t it have made sense back then to get an easy win by claiming bluefin tuna or striped bass instead of cod? Shit, Atlantic cod hasn’t had a winning season since the early 1990s. Bay Staters might as well root for the Browns.