It seems as though we’ve just started our United States fish-tory series, but here we are already at chapter number three. In this post, we’ll tell you a little bit about the state fish of Illinois through Wisconsin, the 21st through 30th states to enter the union, respectively. The fish introduced in this section will mainly be fish native to the Southern and Central portions of the USA, so many of them will be species that do not live in Connecticut and therefore have no official fishing season for us.
Illinois – Entered the Union on December 3, 1818 at the 21st state. Official State Fish: Bluegill
The Bluegill is proud to be the official state fish of Illinois. The Bluegill is a member of the Sunfish family and is a freshwater fish that also goes by the names of Bream, Brim, and Copper Nose. It gets its official name from the bright blue outlines that surround its gills. While this is a fish that has been introduced around the globe, it is only native to the United States.
Bluegills like to make their homes in the cleanest lakes and ponds they can find and often tend to live in shallow waters. They are usually found East of the Rocky Mountains but do not tend to go further north than Virginia on the East Coast. Therefore, there is no official Bluegill season here in CT. Bluegills are a small breed, usually averaging between 4 and 12 inches in length. The largest Bluegill ever to be caught (on official record) was 16 inches long and tipped the scales at just under 5lbs.
The Bluegill is a pretty cheap catch, as the baits that they will most often go for are worms, flies, and corn kernels. When it comes to taste, the Bluegill is said to be very similar to fish such as the Walleye and Crappie and many people will tell you that the only way to cook these fish is to deep fry them with a beer batter coating.
Alabama – Entered the Union on December 14, 1819 as the 22nd state. Official state fish: Largemouth Bass (freshwater) & Fighting Tarpon (saltwater)
For those of you who haven’t read our previous entries on state fish, here’s a quick run-through on the Largemouth Bass, Alabama’s official freshwater fish – The Largemouth Bass is another fish that goes by many different names. Just a few of its monikers include Bigmouth, Black Bass, and Bucketmouth. They possess an olive-green tone on their backs and sides, along with some dark blotches randomly places on their flanks. They typically live to be about 16 years old and rarely surpass a weight of 25 lbs. They are another fish that are highly popular among those who fish for sport and they cover a wide range of territory throughout the United States and Canada. They feature a more coarse texture than most Bass varieties and taste quite similar to Catfish. This is yet another fish that may be caught all through the year in Connecticut, except for in areas where signs strictly prohibit it.
The Fighting Tarpon is the official saltwater fish of Alabama. It generally tends to make its home in the deltas and estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico along the American Gulf Coast. Its name is derived from the valiant fight it puts up when an angler tries to reel it in for the catch. Because of this, they are greatly valued as a special challenge by sport fishermen who will usually release them back into the water after making the catch. On the rare occasion where they are eaten, they are usually fried and have a flavor similar to that of Catfish.
The Fighting Tarpon’s diet is mainly composed of small crustaceans such as crabs, as well as Mullet and other small schooling fish. They can usually grow up to about 100 lbs, but the largest specimen ever caught was 8 feet and 2 inches long and weighed an impressive 350 lbs. This is another fish that rarely ventures into our area, so CT has no Fighting Tarpon season.
Maine – Entered the Union on March 15, 1820 as the 23rd state. Official State Fish: Landlocked Atlantic Salmon
Maine’s official state fish, the Landlocked Atlantic Salmon, is a close relative of the more well-known ocean dwelling Atlantic Salmon. It is a small fish, usually only weighing between 1 and 5 lbs, but achieving a length of 16 to 18 inches. It displays a silvery color with many dark “x” shaped marks along its sides. This is a fish species that is native exclusively to Maine, but has been introduced to other areas by humans to other freshwater areas in Northeastern states.
One of the most popular commercially raised fish in Maine, the Landlocked Atlantic Salmon boasts a taste and texture almost indistinguishable between that of the Atlantic Salmon. Their favorite dining item is the Rainbow Smelt and when they cannot find any, it takes a devastating toll on their physical well-being. They aren’t a particularly long lived fish, with the longest Landlocked Atlantic Salmon only living to the age of 13 years. They are very sensitive to pollution and need to live in the cleanest waters possible. Due to their vulnerability and relatively small numbers, they are another fish to whom the “catch and release” policy is usually extended.
Missouri – Entered the Union on August 16, 1821 as the 24th state. Official State Fish: Channel Catfish
Much like several other states previously covered in this series of posts, the official state fish of Missouri is the Channel Catfish. This is a very popular fish, also having official state fish status in Tennessee, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. They are sometimes called the “Channel Cat” and make their home in the Atlantic Coast from Canada all the way down to Mexico and are also found in large river such as the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. They have an especially keen sense of taste and smell, as their bodies are covered in tastebuds. They are an omnivorous fish, but some of their animal favorites include Minnows, Shad, Sunfish, Frogs, and Bullheads. They normally weigh between 10-20 lbs, but can grow up to 50 in rare cases. They have a slightly more “fishy” taste than other catfish and make for a delicious treat when fried up with cornmeal. Channel Catfish may be caught year-round in Connecticut.
Arkansas – Entered the Union on January 15, 1836 as the 25th State. Official State Fish: None
Arkansas, along with Kansas is one of only two states in the USA to not have an official state fish.
Michigan – Entered the Union on January 26, 1837 as the 26th State. Official State Fish: Brook Trout
Like many other states we’ve covered so far, the official state fish of Michigan is the Brook Trout. Here’s a little refresher course for you on this fish – The Brook Trout is actually a member of the Salmon family and is most closely related to the Arctic Char. It is largely a freshwater fish and is found throughout rivers the eastern portion of the United States and spanning as far west as the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. In appearance, the Brook Trout is usually brown with a mottled, speckled pattern on its sides and is rather small, rarely exceeding 15 lbs in weight. The Brook Trout needs to live in clean waters and is very sensitive to any form of pollution. When prepared to eat, they usually tend to have a mildly oily taste that has been described by many as “Earthy” and features a light and flaky texture.
Florida – Entered the Union on February 3, 1845 as the 27th State. Official State Fish: Florida Largemouth Bass (freshwater) & Atlantic Sailfish (freshwater)
Florida is another state that has two official state fish – one for freshwater and one for saltwater. It’s official freshwater fish is the Florida Largemouth Bass, which is very similar to the more frequently featured Largemouth Bass. It differs from the standard Largemouth Bass in that it is larger in size and can swim much more quickly. It has darker and more well-defined vertical bars on its sides and is more valuable as a game fish. The taste and texture are very much like that of the standard Largemouth Bass.
The Atlantic Sailfish may not have a baseball team named for it, as is the case with its close relative the Marlin, but it does have the honor of being Florida’s official saltwater fish. It is among the fastest fish in the sea, having the ability to exceed speeds of 68 mph. It features a metallic blue coloring with a large dorsal fin with a sail-like shape, which is how its name was created. It also has a sharply pointed bill. The Atlantic Sailfish is quite large and frequently exceeds lengths of 10 feet and weights of 130 lbs. Its favorite things to eat include crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, but it also likes to much on schooling fish such as the Mackerel. The Atlantic Sailfish is most often found in the mid-Atlantic waters and in the Gulf of Mexico. As it is not native to our parts, there is no official Atlantic Sailfish season in Connecticut.
Texas – Entered the Union on December 29, 1845 as the 28th state. Official State Fish: Guadalupe Bass
The Guadalupe Bass is a very rare Bass species and is most frequently found in freshwater creeks and rivers in Texas. They can vary greatly in color, with some specimen sporting a vibrant lime green hue and others having a more plain olive green/brown appearance. Regardless of their primary color, all Guadalupe Bass feature dark diamond shaped marks along their sides. This is another very small fish, with the largest catch tipping the scales at a non-intimidating 3.69lbs1.
The Guadalupe Bass has no natural predators, but its numbers are sinking due to its tendency to interbreed with other fish such as the Spotted and Smallmouth Bass. Because of its relatively low numbers and highly regarded status, this is another fish that has an informal Catch and Release policy. This is a fish that prefers flowing and shallow fresh water habitats. In terms of its taste, it often brings to mind the flavor of a very small Largemouth Bass. The most common cooking methods include smoking and frying.
Iowa – Entered the Union on December 28, 1846 as the 29th State. Official State Fish: Channel Catfish
Iowa is yet another of the many states that has designated the Channel Catfish as its official state fish.
Wisconsin – Entered the Union on May 29, 1848 as the 30th state. Official State Fish: Muskellunge
The Muskellunge is a freshwater fish native only to North America. Alternate names for this fish include Muskellonge, Millagong, Muskie, and several others. This is a fish with a wide range of size, usually measuring between 28 and 48 inches in length and 5-36 lbs in weight. They feature a mixture of colors, with olive green, silver, brown, and dark green usually finding their way onto the typical Muskellunge scales. They are most often found in the North-Central portion of the United States and the South-Central portion of Canada.
Favoring cool waters to warm, the Muskellunge has a very diverse diet, consisting of frogs, snakes, Catfish, mice, muskrats, and several other culinary oddities. They are ambush hunters, and most of their prey are caught before they can even get a chance to realize what is happening. The Muskellunge is a social fish that likes to swim in schools. This is another fish that does not have an official season here in Connecticut, as there are very few of them living in our area. Their taste and texture is a lot like that of the Pike, noted for a rather strongly “fishy” flavor. This is a fish for the true seafood lover. Another difficult fish to bring in, the Muskellunge is sometimes referred to as “The Fish of 10,000 Casts”.
We’ll close out chapter three of the official state fishes of the United States by sharing with you a delicious and easy to make recipe for Baked Muskellunge from Food.com. This recipe calls for between 10 and 14lbs of fish, so make sure you have a lot of guests with a lot of appetite if you make this one.
Ingredients: 1 cup of butter, 10-14 lbs of Muskellunge, Salt, and Lemon Pepper (to taste)2
Directions: 1. Set your oven to preheat at 350 degrees and lubricated a large baking pan with butter or non-fat vegetable spray
2. Make sure that the fish has been cleaned and thoroughly rinsed
3. Rub the butter onto the fish and add the salt and lemon pepper to it as well.
4. Place the fish into the pan and let it bake. This will generally require 10 min per each lb of fish.
5. Mix two tablespoons of butter into one cup of water and use this to occasionally baste the fish.
6. Serve and enjoy!2
1. Author Unavailable
Food.com May 12, 2007