Official State Fishes of the USA – Part 4


Well here we are, already at the second-to-last in our series of articles on the state fish of each state in the USA. Today’s article will concern the state fish of the 31st-40th states to enter the Union, which means we’ll be discussing California through South Dakota. Since the majority of these states are in the western portion of the USA, many of the fish you’ll see will be ones you likely haven’t heard of before. After we finish introducing these “stately” fish to you, we’ll share a delicious recipe for Grilled Northern Pike Fillets.

31. California – entered the Union as the 31st state on September 9, 1850 – State Fish: Golden Trout (freshwater) & Garibaldi (saltwater)

California State Fish

California is the only state in this article that has more than one official state fish. Its official freshwater fish is the California Golden Trout and its official saltwater fish is the Garibaldi.

The California Golden Trout was adopted as the official state fish (back when there was only 1) in 1947.  Their small stature and coloring lead many people to mistake them for adolescent Rainbow Trout. They feature bright golden sides with ride lines near their back and just above their undersides. Their bodies are also marked by a copper colored back and several small, oval-shaped black dots.

A very small fish, the heaviest California Golden Trout on record weighed in at a light 11.25 lbs and was 28 inches long. Most of these fish are much smaller than that, growing only to a typical length of 6-10 inches. They like to dwell in cool waters between 58 and 62 degrees and make their homes in high altitude areas, usually somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level. Their conservation status has been in the “threatened” category since the 1970s due to over-fishing and too much competition from other fish in pursuing food sources. In the late 1970s, a conservation movement began and now their population is once again on the rise.

The beautiful Garibaldi is California’s official saltwater fish. This bright orange flatfish gets its name from the bright red and orange shirts that were worn by supporters of Giuseppe Garibaldi, a prominent Italian military man and political figure1. They are found much more commonly in the coastal areas of Central and Southern California than in the Northern portion of the state. They are larger than the California Golden Trout and usually grow to be about 15 inches long and are somewhat stocky in their build. Before fully mature, they present a more red color with blue ticking throughout their bodies. They are voracious eaters who will jump at the chance to eat anything that comes their way.

The Garibaldi is unique in that it likes to find a place in which to make a permanent “home” and will guard their homes fiercely as this is where their eggs will incubate for approximately 3 weeks before hatching. During that time, the father will stand guard and fight off any potential invader, regardless of size. Even the occasional human has been subject to a Garibaldi bite when straying too close to the precious eggs. There is a law mandating that these fish be returned to the water when caught, so we’ll stay on the safe side and not talk about their culinary features.

32. Minnesota – entered the Union as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858 – State Fish: Walleye

Minnesota State Fish - Walleye





Like many other states, Minnesotans have chosen the Walleye as the fish to represent their state. If this is the first article in our State Fish series that you’ve read, we’ll give you the convenience of discussing the Walleye here so you don’t have to go back to earlier entries before finishing this article.

The Walleye is native to the Northern United States and Canada and has many alternative names. Some of these include Yellow Pike, Pickerel, and Colored Pike. Their true name is derived from the fact that their eyes face outward, giving them them appearance of staring at walls. They feature a combination of olive and gold coloring, as well as a large, strong mouth filled with many sharp teeth. The Walleye usually weighs in at around 20 lbs and can live to be well past 20 years in age. The most efficient way of catching them is to use minnows or scented lures as bait. The Walleye got its 15 minutes of fame in American history when they were at the center of the Wisconsin Walleye War, which is explained in the preceding link. In Connecticut, Walleye may be caught year-round.


33. Oregon – Entered the Union as the 33rd state on February 14, 1859 – State Fish: Chinook Salmon

Oregon State Fish - Chinook Salmon





Also known as King Salmon (and available for purchase every day here at Atlantic Seafood Market), the Chinook Salmon has the distinction of being Oregon’s state fish. Chinook Salmon are naturally native to the Pacific Ocean and are usually found between the coasts of California and Alaska and will travel to freshwater rivers and streams within this span to spawn and spend the first portion of their lives. Beginning in the 1930’s, they were artificially introduced by man into several other areas, including the Great Lakes, the Pacific coast along South America, and the coastal areas of Australia and New Zealand. They are among the most highly prized game fish by sport fishermen and possess many health benefits, namely an abundance of Omega 3 fatty acids.

Chinook Salmon vary a bit in their coloring, but the colors most frequently displayed are a blueish green, purple, and red on their backs and heads with silver skin lining their sides. An average Chinook Salmon will be about 3 feet long and weigh somewhere in the vicinity of 40 to 50 lbs. The largest on record ever caught weighed a whopping 126 lbs. When spawning in freshwater areas, the males will seek out several mates as the female Chinooks sadly die approximately 4 weeks after laying their eggs.

Like most salmon, the Chinook has a somewhat dense texture and bright pink coloring to its flesh. It features a rich flavor and somewhat buttery quality when eaten and can be prepared in a multitude of ways. Grilling, smoking, and broiling are just a few of the ways to prepare this healthy and delicious fish. Salmon fishing generally runs between mid April and late October here in Connecticut, but most anglers will be unlikely to find a Chinook Salmon in our local sea. Be advised however that salmon fishing is illegal in the Connecticut River and its tributaries during times when the salmon population is under restoration. If you catch a salmon when this is the case, please, release it back into the water!

34. Kansas – Entered the union as the 34th state on January 29, 1861 – State Fish: None  

Kansas Flag





Along with Arkansas, Kansas is one of only two states in the USA that does not have an official state fish.

35. West Virginia – Entered the Union on January 20, 1863 as the 35th state – State Fish: West Virginia Golden Brook Trout

West Virginia State Fish: West Virginia Golden Brook Trout





The West Virginia Golden Brook Trout is yet another fish of many names. It is also known to be referred to as the Eastern Brook Trout, Squaretail, and Speckled Trout. It is not a true trout however, and is actually a member of the salmon family, most closely related to the Char. It bears some resemblance to its Salmon cousin, but features a more golden tint to its coloring than the typical silver displayed by a salmon. It is also far smaller than an adult Arctic Char. Its scientific name is Salvelinus Fontinalis, which is the Latin term for “from a spring or fountain”2. They can sometimes be caught in lakes or rivers, but it is the delight of the true West Virginia outdoorsmen to catch them in shallow streams while fly fishing.

This is not a fish that is found very often in Connecticut, but it is subject to the same seasonal regulations as the Brook Trout. Its flesh and flavor are very much like that of most any freshwater Trout, but is slightly more firm in texture and is noted for its especially mild flavor.

36. Nevada – Entered the Union on October 31, 1864 as the 36th state – State Fish: Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

Nevada State Fish - Lahontan Cutthroat Trout





The Lahontan Cutthroat Trout is the largest of the three Cutthroat Trout varieties and is also the official fish of Nevada. It is not infrequent for these fish to exceed three feet in length and to weigh in excess of 40 lbs. They have a pea-green coloring to their sides along with a red stripe and several black spots all over their sides and backs. They are a predatory fish whose favorite menu items include smaller fish such as Chub and Suckers. They are a fish with a special place in American history, having been considered sacred by the Paiute Tribe as well as serving as a staple of their diet.

This is yet another fish whose current status is Threatened, due to several factors. Some of the issues that have caused a sharp decline in their numbers include overfishing, human relocation to inhospitable areas, and frequent irrigation from their habitats to farmlands that receive little rain. A conservation movement began for the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout in the 1980s and it is having a positive impact as their population is slowly but steadily growing. Due to this fact, capture for consumption is looked down upon and strongly discouraged.

37. Nebraska – Entered the Union on March 11, 1867 as the 37th state – State Fish: Channel Catfish

Nebraska State Fish - Channel Catfish





Nebraska is one of a menagerie of states that have selected the Channel Catfish as their state fish. If you haven’t read any of our earlier State Fish article, here’s a rundown on the the Channel Catfish for you:

The Channel Catfish is Nebraska’s official state fish and is the most plentiful variety of Catfish in America. It’s a very popular fish, also having official state fish status in Tennessee, Missouri, 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.

38. Colorado – Entered the Union as the 38th state on August 11, 1876 – State Fish: Greenback Cutthroat Trout

Colorado State Fish - Greenback Cutthroat Trout





Colorado’s state fish is the Greenback Cutthroat Trout which is a relative of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout mentioned earlier. They are not quite as large as the Lahontan and they rarely exceed 10 lbs in weight. The Greenback normally maxes out in terms of length at about 1.5 feet. They exhibit a beautiful green coloring along with red striping on their sides, throat, and jaws. They were officially named as Colorado’s state fish just 29 years ago in 1984.

This breed is yet another fish that presently is under threatened status, for many of the same reasons as the Lahontan. An additional issue faced by the Greenback Cutthroat Trout is competition for food from the introduction of non-native fish species that have become invasive. Some of these include the Brook Trout, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout, all of which are larger in size and more adept hunters than the Greenback. With their population having been hit hard, they only occupy 1% of the area they once did during their most prosperous days. The silver lining here is that help is being given by conservationists and their numbers are slowly replenishing. This is another fish that is not to be caught for consumption purposes.

39. North Dakota – Entered the Union on November 21, 1889 as the 39th state – State Fish: Northern Pike

North Dakota Fish - Northern Pike





A common theme among state fish is their tendency to have several alternate names. The Northern Pike continues this tradition, with some of its alternative names being Jackfish, Pike, and Northern. They have an extremely large population and are native to almost all freshwater regions of the Northern Hemisphere. They will even make their homes in saltwater areas if the salinity factor is relatively low.

The Northern Pike is a long, slim fish which is most often olive-toned with several yellow spots adorning its flanks. Immature Northern Pike do not have yellow spots, but rather solid yellow lines on their skin. Most Northern Pike will grow to be in the area of six feet in length and weigh around 55 lbs. They prefer stagnant or slow-moving waters and are known to be ambush hunters. They will patiently wait while eyeing their prey for long periods of time. Suddenly, they will spring out at lightning-quick speed and snare their prey before it even has a chance to know what is going on. They like to eat most any fish that comes their way and are prone to acts of cannibalism from time to time.

Some people will throw back Northern Pike when they are reeled in because they are a very bony fish and can be difficult to prepare if someone hasn’t already filleted them. Larger ones will often be kept though, as they contain enough flesh to justify the work that will go into de-boning and gutting them. Their flesh is white in color and has a yielding texture and has a mild flavor that is reminiscent of a typical freshwater Trout. They are usually served in fillet form (more on this later on in the article) and freezing is not recommended as it tends to give their flesh a grainy quality that most people find unpleasant. Pike may be caught year-round in Connecticut, but the best times for doing so are in spring or during the winter, when they are a popular target for ice fishing.


40. South Dakota – Entered the Union on November 21, 1889 as the 40th state – State Fish: Walleye

South Dakota State Fish - Walleye





As is the case with Minnesota, South Dakota has also designated the Walleye as its official state fish.

Now, as promised, we will share with you the recipe  for Grilled Northern Pike Fillets, courtesy of


Grilled Northern Pike Fillets

Ingredients: 1/2 cup of butter, 1 lb of Northern Pike fillets, and Lemon Pepper seasoning, to taste (This recipe will serve two people.)3

Directions: 1. Preheat your grill to 350 degrees and be sure to oil it beforehand so the fish will not stick.

2.  Brush the fish with the melted butter.

3. Add in the lemon pepper seasoning to your desired extent

4. Keep heating the fish and test with a spatula to see when it is done. When ready, the skin should separate easily from the flesh. This will usually take about 10 minutes per inch of thickness of the flesh.3


Works Cited

1. Author Unavailable
Garibaldi (Fish)

2. Author Unavailable
US States and Symbols

3. Admiral BigGun
Grilled Northern Pike Fillet, July 2012

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