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What Is a State Fish?

A state fish is an aquatic species designated by a government as a symbolic representative of that region's natural heritage. Often chosen for their ecological significance or cultural importance, these fish reflect the unique biodiversity and traditions of the area. Have you ever wondered what your state fish says about your home's environmental narrative? Join us as we explore these watery emblems.
Misty Amber Brighton
Misty Amber Brighton

Many states within the U.S. choose official symbols such as birds, mammals, flowers, and state fish. This species is normally selected by asking the citizens of that state to vote, and then passing an act through the legislature. The one that is chosen is normally reflective of the type of aquatic life commonly found there. Some states that border the ocean have chosen both a freshwater and a saltwater variety to be the official state symbol.

Naming a state fish is not mandated by the U.S. Constitution, but many states choose to do this because it represents the type of aquatic life native to the area. The practice of doing so is very common, and 45 out of the 50 states have this state symbol. Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, and Ohio do not recognize a state animal in this category. Many states that border the ocean name both a freshwater and saltwater fish in addition to a state shell. Tennessee recognizes both a sport and commercial fish, while Vermont names both a cold and warm water variety.

The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.
The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.

The process of naming a state fish may vary, but this symbol is normally chosen by that state's citizens. This might begin by a group of people asking their state representative to sponsor a bill to do this. Once a senator has agreed, residents may be allowed to vote on several different species, and the winner is then added to the final draft of the bill before it is voted on by the legislature. If the governor of that state signs the bill, the fish will become the official state symbol in this category.

The largemouth bass is a common state fish.
The largemouth bass is a common state fish.

Once a species is named as the official state fish, this fact may be advertised on the Internet or official state tourism documents. It is often highlighted along with state birds and animals to promote outdoor activity and recreation. Some states choose a representative that may be threatened or endangered, in which case they might devote special efforts toward the conservation of this species. This may include educating the public about the significance of the fish to that state's waters.

Trout and bass are two common examples of a state fish. Eleven states, including California and New York, have named a variety of trout, and the brook trout is the most common one. Ten states, including South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Florida, have named a species of bass, and the largemouth variety is the most popular. Some state fish represent only one state. For example, Connecticut has named the American shad, Wisconsin the muskellunge, and Alaska the salmon.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of having a state fish?

Designating a state fish serves multiple purposes. It recognizes a species that holds ecological, cultural, or historical significance to a particular state. This acknowledgment can help in conservation efforts by raising public awareness about the fish and its habitat. Additionally, it can foster state pride and contribute to educational initiatives about local biodiversity and environmental stewardship.

How is a state fish chosen?

A state fish is typically chosen through a legislative process. Proposals can be initiated by lawmakers, citizens, or interest groups, and often involve input from local communities, schools, and conservation experts. The selection process may consider factors such as the fish's prevalence in the state, its importance to local ecosystems, and its cultural or historical relevance. Once a bill is passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor, the fish is officially designated as the state symbol.

Can a state have more than one state fish?

Yes, some states have designated more than one state fish to represent different aspects of their aquatic fauna. For example, a state might have a freshwater fish and a saltwater fish to symbolize the diversity of its water bodies and fishing industries. These designations can also reflect the state's commitment to protecting various aquatic habitats and species.

What are some examples of state fish?

Examples of state fish include the Brook Trout, which is the state fish of several states including New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, due to its prevalence and popularity among anglers. The California Golden Trout is another example, chosen for its unique beauty and status as a native species to California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Each state fish has a story that connects it to the identity and natural heritage of its state.

How does the designation of a state fish impact conservation efforts?

The designation of a state fish can significantly impact conservation efforts by drawing attention to the species and its habitat. It can lead to increased funding for research and habitat restoration, stricter regulations to protect the fish from overfishing or pollution, and educational programs to inform the public about the importance of maintaining healthy fish populations. By highlighting a state fish, states can foster a sense of responsibility and encourage conservation actions among their residents.

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Discussion Comments


@kentuckycat - I agree with you to an extent, but keep in mind these are just fun little things to add to the state to give it a bit of identity.

The reason why there is a state fish in so many states is because fish thrive nearly everywhere there is water and because of this, most states feel that they need to have a state fish in order to fairly address and recognize aquatic life, just as they do the state land animals.

To be hinest, these types of things do not bother me very much, as they really do not take up a lot of time and at least do contribute to the creation of the identity for the state to compare it with other states.

It is also fun to think of why they chose such a thing in the first place and wonder what could be picked as a state sponsored thing, if there is not already one to fill that spot in the state.


@Emilski - Those are very strong words, but to be honest most of the time it is the residents of the state and in many cases school children that come up with these things and end up proposing them to the state legislatures.

Yes it may seem like it is time consuming, but these measures almost always pass when they are brought up in front of the legislatures for a vote and do not really waste a whole lot of time or money.

I will say though one thing that does annoy me is how states will usually pick the same animals. Like for example the cardinal is the state bird in nearly a dozen states and I really do not understand why this is so, because it is not as common as other birds.

I really feel like states more or less do these things because other states have done them and they have gotten a bit bland and lost their symbolism as of late.


@JimmyT - I absolutely agree and feel like there are way too many things that become state sponsored that have no business being so.

In the state I live in, Illinois, we have a state dance, a state fossil, and a state snack. In all honesty what is the point of having these when the dance is the square dance and the snack is popcorn which are relatively common things?

I feel like there is always some type of movement going on to add a state something and that the politicians feel that it is a good story in the press, but in reality wastes time and gets little done.

SOmething that is state sponsored needs to have a tie to the state either in its history or livelihood, so that makes sense why states on the east or west coasts would have a state fish, but what is the point of a state like Kansas having a state fish?

I really do not like things like this and kind of wish they would get rid of them.


I have to be totally and completely hoenst. I feel that it is a complete waste of time on the effort of politicians as well as tax payer dollars to name something as simple as a state fish.

I fully understand why it is necessary for a state to pick things to represent thei state like a state flag or seal or what not but to be honest what use is there for a state fish?

I understand that some states economies rely heavily on commercial fishing, but as this article state 45 of the 50 states in the Union have a state fish and I really do not feel that something like this is necessary.

The worst part about it legislation has to be passed to make these types of things official and because there are so many petty state sponsored things like this that get proposed all the time, I just feel that it is a waste of taxpayers money and time that could be spent by politicians doing something more productive with their time.

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    • The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.
      By: Witold Krasowski
      The landlocked salmon is the state fish of Maine.
    • The largemouth bass is a common state fish.
      The largemouth bass is a common state fish.