Most states in the U.S. have one chosen species as a state fish. Florida, however, has both a freshwater and a saltwater state fish. The freshwater state fish of Florida is the Florida largemouth bass, and the saltwater state fish of Florida is the Atlantic sailfish.
Florida largemouth bass are highly popular game fish that live in many of the lakes and rivers that cover much of Florida’s land area. These fish typically grow as much as 3 feet (1 meter) long and weigh about 8 pounds (3.6 kg), though they sometimes get much larger. One largemouth bass caught in the 1930s weighed an enormous 22 pounds (10 kg). These fish are generally a silvery color with black patterns or striping on their back and sides.
They live in warm, slow-moving waterways or in the still waters of the many lakes that speckle Florida’s land area. Largemouth bass need plenty of vegetation to hide in and thrive in waters that contain an abundance of aquatic plants. They eat insects, crustaceans and smaller fish.
The second state fish of Florida is the Atlantic sailfish. The sailfish is very popular with saltwater fishermen. Typically, the adult fish weighs up to 50 pounds (22.6 kg), and fishing enthusiasts generally consider catching one to be a significant challenge. It is long and thin, often growing to about 11 feet (3.4 meters) in length.
An Atlantic sailfish is very striking in appearance. The top half of its body is a rich metallic blue with purple stripes while its lower half and underside is a flashy, shiny silver. The dorsal fin of the sailfish runs the length of its body and will stand straight up, forming the sail the fish is named for, when the fish is excited. Sailfish also use their dorsal fins for hunting and raise them in order to herd smaller fish into a confined area where they are more easily caught and eaten.
One of the things that make this state fish of Florida a thrill for fishermen is its tendency to leap far out of the water when hooked, with dorsal fins extended. Their ability to swim quite quickly, at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour (112 kph), adds to the challenge of catching these fish. Due to the increasing rarity of the Atlantic sailfish, sportsmen are asked to release them after catching them, allowing them to survive and reproduce in an effort to increase their numbers.