It’s hard to believe, but we’re now about to complete our across-the-nation road trip visiting each state and learning a thing or two about its state fish. This entry will cover states 41-50 (Montana-Hawaii) as well as a delicious recipe for Cedar Planked Grilled King Salmon (Alaska’s state fish) which we’ll share with you a bit later on.
41. Montana – Entered the Union on November 8, 1889 as the 41st state – Official State Fish: Cutthroat Trout
If you’re read some of the earlier posts in this series, then you’re already familiar with Cutthroat Trout varieties such as the Lahontan and Greenback. Montana chose to take a little bit less of a specific route and went the the Cutthroat Trout as a whole, encompassing all sub-species as its official state fish.
Nearly all Cutthroat Trout varieties are native exclusively to the western portion of North America and are very popular game among fly fisherman for the challenging fight they put up when caught on a line. Most cutthroats will live out their lives in freshwater, but some will go in to lower-salinity salt water areas. The ones who do this typically will grow to greater sizes (up to 20 lbs) while most of the freshwater-exclusive Cutthroats will rarely exceed six pounds in weight.
As a very diverse fish (there are 14 different sub-species of Cutthroat Trout), the Cutthroat can greatly range in color from green to brown to gray and also present a wide array of different markings. Many of them closely resemble Rainbow Trout and are often mistaken for immature members of that species. Cutthroat Trout get their rather violent sounding name from the red area that is present along the lower jaw area of almost all Cutthroat species.
42. Washington – Entered the Union on November 11, 1889 as the 42nd state – Official State Fish: Steelhead Trout
Washington has dubbed the Steelhead Trout as its state fish, though in reality, the Steelhead Trout is just another name for a Rainbow Trout. The primary difference between Steelheads and other Rainbow Trout is that the Steelhead mainly lives in salt water while other Rainbow Trout are freshwater fish. The Steelhead will generally only return to freshwater to spawn, much like the salmon.
As is the rule with many fish, the ones who enter saltwater will usually grow larger than those who do not. Steelheads can dwarf other Rainbow Trout, with many of them getting to be as heavy as 55 lbs and as long as four feet2. They usually present a greenish-brown coloring on their backs with bright silver flanks and heads along with a white underside. While living in the ocean, their bodies will become progressively more silver over time.
Most Steelhead Trout will make it to an average of 11 years old and some of them will spend nearly half of their lives maturing in freshwater before venturing out into the ocean. Their flesh is lighter in color than that of salmon, but the taste and texture is extremely similar to that of a Pacific Salmon.
43. Idaho – Entered the Union on July 3, 1890 as the 43rd state – Official State Fish: Cutthroat Trout
As is the case with Montana, Idaho’s state fish is the Cutthroat Trout.
44. Wyoming – Entered the Union on July 10, 1890 as the 44th state – Official State Fish: Cutthroat Trout
Wyoming is yet another state whose state fish is the Cutthroat Trout.
45. Utah – Entered the Union on January 4, 1896 as the 45th state – Official State Fish: Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
The Bonneville Cutthroat Trout is Utah’s state fish and is native to tributaries of the Great Salt Lake. It will also occasionally make trips into the lake itself as well. While they mostly live in Utah, they can also be found in Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada as well. Their diet is mostly made up of other fish that are smaller in size, but they’ll also snack on insects who are unlucky enough to fall into the water when the opportunity arises.
Compared to some other Cutthroat Trout varieties, the Bonneville is somewhat drab in its appearance, normally exhibiting a charcoal gray or muted mottled red in its skin. Unlike many Cutthroats, the Bonneville doesn’t always have the red coloring on its lower jaw. Many specimen of this fine fish will sport a yellow coloration in this area instead.
They are typically not a very cautious fish and therefore are extremely easy to catch, even for the inexperienced fisherman. As is the case with many of the Cutthroat Trout sub-species, the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout has seen its numbers decrease over time, but not nearly as much so as many other varieties.
46. Oklahoma – Entered the Union on November 16, 1907 as the 46th state – Official State Fish: White Bass
Ranging as far east as Pennsylvania and as far west as South Dakota, the White Bass is the official state fish of Oklahoma. This is a fish that is usually silvery-white in color (hence their name), though a few will display a very pale green hue. They also will show darker shades on their backs and are usually 10 to 17 inches long and weigh 6 lbs or less in most cases.
The White Bass has better eyesight than many other fish and thus is a highly effective predator. The White Bass who manage to snag the most food and build up the greatest amount of fat usually have the best chances of surviving through the winter. They can sometimes be caught in shallow waters but more frequently make their homes in reservoirs, lakes, and deep streams. They are not commonly found in Connecticut, but the typical bass rules apply to them when they are. Many people do not like to eat the White Bass as it has a particularly “fishy” flavor but those who do enjoy it do so with a passion are known to valiantly defend its taste against remarks from detractors.
47. New Mexico – Entered the Union on January 6, 1912 as the 47th state – Official State Fish: Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout
The last variety of Cutthroat Trout that we’ll be introducing you to is the Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout, New Mexico’s official state fish. It is found almost exclusively in New Mexico and Colorado in the Rio Grande and its tributaries. They are a rather short-lived trout species, with most only living to be about 5 years old. However, some of them living in captivity have managed to survive well into their teens.
Insects make up the largest portion of their diet and they’ll feed on both aquatic insects and land-dwelling insects who get unlucky and fall into the water. Like many of the other Cutthroat Trout varieties we’ve talked about, the Rio Grande is yet another sub-species that sadly has lost a great deal of the population it once had. Due to this fact, they are another fish to whom the “catch and release” ettiquitte is strongly encouraged and followed in most cases. They differ in appearance from the Rainbow Trout in that they generally are darker in color and have the red area under their lower jaw in typical Cutthroat Trout fashion.
48. Arizona – Entered the Union on February 14, 1912 as the 48th state – Official State Fish: Arizona Trout
Arizona’s State fish is the predictably-enough Arizona Trout, which is also referred to as the Apache Trout in some circles. This freshwater-dwelling cousin of the salmon can grow up to 2 feet long and weigh up to about seven pounds. They are gold throughout most of their bodies but are also marked by several dark speckles. Another unique feature to this fish is that most of them will have slim black bars around the area of their eyes, giving them the appearance of wearing a mask.
The Arizona Trout is one of only two trout species native to Arizona, with the other one being the Gila Trout3. They tend to seek out the cooler waters that Arizona has to offer and will usually reach maturity at around 3 years of age. It is at this point that they will begin to spawn, which normally takes place between March and June. Larger females will lay up to nearly 1,100 eggs and they will usually hatch after about a month after being laid.
The Arizona Trout is listed as “Endangered” which is even more of a dire situation faced by the Cutthroat Trout varieties whose populations are currently under “Threatened” status. This is a problem that has existed for nearly 70 years and efforts have been being made to establish conservation movements. Part of the plan is to boost populations through raising Arizona Trout in captivity in commercial and protected hatcheries.
49. Alaska – Entered the Union on January 3, 1959 as the 49th state – Official State Fish: King Salmon
If you missed our last entry, the King Salmon, which is also known as the Chinook Salmon, is Oregon’s state fish as well as that of Alaska.
King 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.
King 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 specimen 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 King Salmon sadly die approximately 4 weeks after laying their eggs.
Like most salmon, this variety 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 King 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!
Along with probably being the fish with the hardest name to spell and pronounce, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is also Hawaii’s state fish. Mercifully, it’s also referred to as the Reef Triggerfish and for the sake of convenience, that’s what we’ll be calling it here. Other nicknames include Reef, Rectangle, and Wedge-Tail. Their actual name is derived from a Hawaiian word which means “fish that grunts like a pig”. This is mainly due to the unusual sound that Reef Triggerfish will emit when captured. Its name is one of the longest words in the Hawaiian language and there is a local joke which states that the fish’s name is longer than the fish itself.
Like many other tropical fish, the Reef Triggerfish is quite colorful. It sports colors of bright yellow, metallic silver, black, along with electric blue stripes. It is able to change colors at will and will take on much more muted and subdued colors when sleeping to avoid detection by possible predators. They are a stocky fish and can be very hard to catch because they have the ability to squeeze into very small areas and use their deceptively high strength to avoid being pulled out.
A unique ability possessed by the Reef Triggerfish is that of being able to shoot out powerful streams of water through its mouth. This skill is most frequently used to stir up the ocean floor and expose potential food sources. This is a fish that is very rarely eaten outside of Hawaii and even within Hawaii, they are not a staple at the dinner table as they are so adept at avoiding capture. Their flesh is light in color and is very mild in taste and texture. The most common ways of preparation include frying, baking, and broiling their fillets.
Cedar Planked Salmon Recipe
Ingredients: 2 lbs of skinned King Salmon fillets, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1 tsp of minced garlic, 1 tsp of sesame oil, 1 tbsp of fresh grated ginger root, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, 1.5 tbsp of rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of chopped green onions, and 3 foot-long Cedar grilling planks1
Directions: 1. Soak the Cedar planks in water for a minimum time of 1 hour. If time permits, soak slightly longer.
2. Combine the garlic, ginger root, soy sauce, green onions, sesame oil, vegetable oil, and rice vinegar together in a shallow bowl or dish. Place the salmon fillets in the mixture and let them marinate for 90 minutes.
3. Get a fire running in your grill and set it to a medium level of heat. Put the planks over the grill. When they just begin to crackle and smoke, they’re ready for the fish.
4. Put the King Salmon fillets on the planks and discard the leftover oil/spice mixture. Cover the grill and heat for 20 minutes. Test the fish by gently scraping it with a fork. When it begins to flake, it’s done and ready to serve.1
1. More, W
Cedar Planked Salmon
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