These Magnificient Fish Represent the United States of America

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: November 18, 2023
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From flags to plants to animals, each state in the United States has a variety of symbols designated to help represent the state. Fish are no exception. Forty-five states, plus the District of Columbia, have at least one fish designated as the official state fish. Some states, such as North Carolina or Alabama, may have two: an official freshwater fish and an official saltwater fish. Different categorizations exist, such as official cold-water fish, commercial fish, and more.

Regardless of the name, learning about the fish each state holds near and dear is an interesting way to learn more about that state’s overall culture and identity. Click through the slideshow above to learn more about the complete list of every official state fish, plus the District of Columbia.Like and comment to let us know which one you think is the coolest state fish!

Alabama

The official fish of Alabama is the largemouth bass. Officials first designated the largemouth bass as the state fish in 1975. As you’ll learn later below, this fish also represents several other states. This is because, across the U.S., the largemouth bass is regarded as a staple gamefish. They are beloved due to their aggressive nature, which many anglers cite to make for a thrilling fishing experience.

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Alabama is one of the many states with two official state fish. The official saltwater fish of Alabama is the tarpon. The tarpon first represented Alabama in 1955, but it was redesignated in 1975 to allow the largemouth bass to take its place.

Alaska

The official fish of Alaska is the Chinook salmon, or the king salmon as it is more commonly known. It became the state fish in 1962 — only three years after Alaska became a part of the U.S. The Chinook salmon plays a large role in the culture, history, and economics of Alaska. They are the largest of all Pacific species of salmon. Adults can grow up to five feet long, with one of the largest on record weighing in at around 16 pounds. Although they can grow to these amazing proportions, however, it is more common to find these salmon weighing around 30 pounds.

Arizona

The official fish of Arizona is the Apache trout. Designated as the state fish in 1986, the Apache trout cannot be found anywhere else in the world. A critically endangered species today, this interesting endemic fish has faced extinction due to a variety of causes. One of the main threats for this specie are the introduced, non-native species of trout that now inhabit the Apache trout’s ecosystems. The White Mountain Apache Tribe took the initiative to help this endangered population in 1955.

California

The official fish of California is the California golden trout. It was first named the official freshwater fish of the state in 1947, a title it has continued to boast well into the 21st century. The California golden trout is named for its vivid yellow coloring. They live in cold mountain streams at altitudes of more than 7,500 feet, making them the prime species living in the Sierra Nevada. Although they only occur naturally in California, due to their popularity, other states have begun to stock this trout in their local ecosystems, including Utah and Montana.

The California golden trout is just one species used to represent the Golden State, however. California also has an official saltwater, or marine, fish species. The official saltwater fish of California is the garibaldi. Much like the golden rout, the garibaldi sports a striking yellow color, only this time it makes up the entirety of the body.

Colorado

The greenback cutthroat trout is the official fish of Colorado, although this hasn’t always been the case. Instead, the greenback cutthroat trout first came to represent the Centennial State in 1954 — although unofficially. It wasn’t until nearly half a century later, in 1994, that Colorado adopted this species of trout as its state fish. The greenback cutthroat trout is the largest of all other cutthroat trout species. It is a threatened species, with the decline in population being related to the introduction of non-native competitor species.

Connecticut

Connecticut’s state fish is a fairly recent edition compared to other states, which have sported a fish symbol since the mid-20th century. The official fish of Connecticut is the American shad. The largest of all herring species found in the state, Connecticut designated the American shad as the state symbol in 2003 through House Bill 5442. For centuries, the Native American shad has been a significant part of Connecticut life, from the Indigenous nations that relied on it as a food source to the modern-day locals that continue to use the American shad both as a source of food and income.

Delaware

©Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; uploaded by Gdr / public domain - License

The official fish of Delaware is the weakfish. It was first designated as the state symbol in 1981. The weakfish is an economically important fish in Delaware. This is because Delaware is a popular sport fishing location, and the weakfish, in particular, is an angler favorite. While reeling, the weakfish is anything but weak, putting up a thrilling fight. They also have a delectable taste that makes the experience worth it. Other names for the weakfish include “sea trout,” “chickwick,” “yellow fin trout,” “yellow mouth,” “squeteague,” and “gray sea trout.” Although they are the state fish of Delaware, they’re common along the majority of the east coast of the U.S.

District of Columbia

Although the District of Columbia, also known as D.C., isn’t a state, it still has an official fish. The American shad is the official fish of the District of Columbia. It earned this title in the Fisheries and Wildlife Omnibus Amendment Act of 2016, which became effective as of May 2017. The American shad is also the state fish of Connecticut. The Potomac River is a significant spawning location for these fish, which spend their lives at sea before returning to freshwater to reproduce. In the District of Columbia, the American shad population faced a time when the species had been threatened. However, conservation efforts helped protect this state symbol.

Florida

Like several states above, Florida has two different state fish to acknowledge both the abundance of saltwater and freshwater habitats found in the Sunshine State.

For freshwater, the official fish of Florida is the Florida largemouth bass. This state-specific subspecies of the largemouth bass became the official symbol of the state in 1975. The largemouth bass is also the state fish of Alabama. They are known to eat a variety of different prey, including alligator hatchlings!

The official saltwater fish of Florida is the Atlantic sailfish (pictured). Like the largemouth bass, the Atlantic sailfish gained this title in 1975.

Georgia

The largemouth bass is a popular fish across the U.S., as seen from its being the official fish of Georgia. The largemouth bass became the state fish in 1970; however, the origin of its significance can be traced back nearly forty years. In 1932, George Perry caught a record-breaking bass weighing 22 pounds and 4 ounces in Georgia, a fish that still holds the record to this day.

The official saltwater state fish of Georgia is the red drum. While the largemouth bass was designated state fish in 1970, the red drum didn’t gain its status until 2006.

Georgia is unique in that it has not one, not two, but three state fish. Along with freshwater and saltwater fish, Georgia also recognizes a cold-water game fish: the Appalachian brook trout. Like the red drum, the Appalachian brook trout was appointed in 2006.

Hawaii

The official state fish of Hawaii is the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, also known as the “reef triggerfish.” The reef triggerfish first became the state fish of Hawaii in 1985. However, at this time, the law faced a five-year expiration. As a result, in 1990, the reef triggerfish ceased to be the official state fish. This changed in 2006, though, when a law was put into place that would grant the reef triggerfish its spot permanently. Even prior to official recognition, the reef triggerfish has long been a symbol of Hawaii. This is because it is a symbol of Kamapuaʻa, an important entity in Hawaiian folklore.

Idaho

The official state first of Idaho is the cutthroat trout. The cutthroat trout was designated in 1990. Trout is a picky species. As a biological indicator, they thrive only in clean, healthy stream ecosystems. As a result, seeing trout in an area, including the cutthroat trout, is a good sign. Because of this, they are a popular native species in Idaho, and anglers and nature lovers love it. In Idaho, they are a catch-and-release-only species, although early settlers in the state relied on this fish as a food source.

Illinois

The bluegill is the state fish of Illinois. It came to hold this status in 1986 when a group of Illinois schoolchildren voted for it. Several different options for fish were given, and the schoolchildren of the state were allowed to vote for which species would get to represent Illinois. The bluegill is also known as the “bream” or “bluegill sunfish.” They are an abundant game fish that most Illinois anglers can say they have caught at least once in their lifetime. They are not picky eaters, choosing to dine on almost anything so long as it can fit in the fish’s mouth.

Kentucky

For several decades before its status as a state symbol, the official state fish of Kentucky wasn’t even considered a distinct species. Instead, it was viewed as a hybrid. However, a past without recognition changed in 1956, when the spotted bass became the official Kentucky state fish. The spotted bass, also known as the “Kentucky bass” in this region, is a popular and well-known species of freshwater fish. It appears similar to the largemouth bass, although it is smaller. Although it is the official state fish, it is not the most common fish species seen in the state.

Louisiana

Sat on the Gulf of Mexico and home to the mouth of the Mississippi River, Louisiana is a state familiar with fish. As a result, it has both a saltwater fish and a freshwater fish. The freshwater state fish of Louisiana is the white crappie (Pomoxis annularis, pictured). It became the state fish in 1993. Other names for the white crappie include “strawberry bass,” “speckled perch,” and “papermouths.”

The official saltwater state fish of Louisiana is the spotted sea trout. Officials designated this fish as the state symbol in 2001, just eight years after the freshwater fish was named.

Maine

For many states, people may be surprised by or unaware of the official state fish. However, for some states, like Maine, the state fish is well-known and closely associated with the state. The official fish of Maine is the Atlantic salmon. It joined the list of state symbols in 1969. The Atlantic salmon is a vital part of the history, culture, and economics of Maine. As a result, making the Atlantic salmon the official state fish is a great way to recognize and celebrate this significant fish.

Maryland

The striped bass is the official state fish of Maryland. It was designated in 1965. Other names for this fish include “Atlantic striped bass,” “striper,” “linesider,” “rock,” and “rockfish.” A popular North American species, the striped bass is also the state fish and state saltwater fish for several other states found later in this list. This species of bass can grow to be up to five feet in length and live for up to 30 years.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has over 50 state symbols. One of these is the official state fish, which is the Atlantic cod. This species is listed as vulnerable, and it became the official fish of Massachusetts in 1974. The Atlantic cod is one of the most significant commercial fish. They are popular for catching as well as consuming, and this is true not only for Massachusetts but for many of the areas in which this fish can be found.

Michigan

©United States Fish and Wildlife Services / Public domain - License

In 1965, the title of official state fish of Michigan was given to the trout. However, at this time, a specific species of trout was not named. There are five species of trout native to the state of Michigan, so it was unclear which of the species was the true state fish. In 1988, nearly two decades after the first law was approved, it was amended to name a specific species of trout, and thus, the brook trout became the official state fish.

Minnesota

The Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota, is no stranger to fish. However, only one can truly represent this state. The official fish of Minnesota is the walleye. It became the state symbol in 1965.

Mississippi

The largemouth bass became the official state fish of Mississippi in 1974. It is also the state fish of several other states on this list.

Missouri

The state fish of Missouri is a unique and interesting species that has not yet been featured on this list. It may also be one that surprises you! The fish of Missouri is the channel catfish. It was chosen to represent that state as an important symbol in 1997.

Montana

The state fish of Montana is the black spotted cutthroat trout. It became the state fish on February 10, 1977. The idea of Montana adopting a state fish arose from Norma Ashby and her husband, Shirley. Ardent anglers, they wondered why Montona had no official fish. Thus, they launched a campaign to encourage state officials to adopt a fish, of which both the black spotted cutthroat and the Montana grayling were proposed.

Nebraska

Like Missouri, the state fish of Nebraska is the channel catfish. Both states adopted this fish as a state symbol in the same year, 1997.

Nevada

The state fish of Nevada is the Lahontan cutthroat trout. It became the official fish on May 28, 1981. The Lahontan cutthroat trout is named for the river basin in which it can be found.

New Hampshire

The official freshwater state fish of New Hampshire is the brook trout (pictured). State officials designated it as the state fish in 1994. Like many other species of trout, this species is a biological indicator. They live only in water conditions that are clean and healthy.

New Hampshire also has a saltwater fish. The official saltwater state fish of this state is the striped bass, which was also designated in 1994.

New Jersey

Not only do New Jersey and New Hampshire share the characteristics of having two state fish, but they also share one! That’s right, the official state fish of New Jersey is the brook trout (pictured). However, these are not the most common fish in New Jersey, although they are popular. This species of least concern was chosen to represent New Jersey in 1992, two years before New Hampshire adopted the brook trout as the state fish as well.

As mentioned above, New Jersey also has an official saltwater fish. This species is the striped bass.

New Mexico

The state fish of New Mexico is the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. This species of fish can only be found in the clean, clear waters of the Rio Grande. As a result of this, for many, the Rio Grande cutthroat trout represents the state’s dedication to conservation and preserving nature. New Mexico first adopted the Rio Grande cutthroat trout in 1955. This was only forty-three years after New Mexico became a state.

New York

With 70,000 miles of rivers, thousands of lakes and ponds, and access to the Atlantic Ocean, New York is home to a wide variety of fish and other aquatic animals. As a result, it’s no surprise that the state has both a freshwater and a saltwater state fish.

The freshwater state fish of New York is the brook trout (pictured). This fish is common in the northeastern U.S. states, so it is often chosen as a state symbol. New York designated the brook trout as its state fish in 1975. The brook trout is also known as the “speckled trout,” “brookies,” or “speckles.” It lives in cold, clean, and healthy aquatic environments.

The saltwater state fish of New York is the striped bass. Although the state adopted the brook trout in 1975, the striped bass didn’t become the state fish until 2006. Striped bass are common in the coastal waters surrounding Long Island, and they can be found in the tidal region of the Hudson River, depending on the season. As a result, they are a staple marine fish in the Empire State.

North Carolina

Man holding a large red drum

©IrinaK/Shutterstock.com

From ancient mountains in the west towards the beautiful Outer Banks in the east, North Carolina has no shortage of unique habitats in which a variety of different fish species can thrive. This includes both the state freshwater and saltwater fish.

The freshwater state fish is the Southern Appalachian brook trout. The Southern Appalachian brook trout was chosen to represent North Carolina in 2005.

Although North Carolina has a state freshwater fish, the channel bass or red drum (pictured), which is the state’s saltwater fish, is a much more well-known symbol. The red drum has represented the Tar Heel State since 1971. The red drum has many names, including “redfish,” “puppy drum,” “spot tail bass,” and “red.” They are one of the most popular coastal game fish in North Carolina. It is also the official saltwater state fish of another state, discussed further below.

North Dakota

The state fish of North Dakota is one fish that hasn’t appeared on this list yet: the northern pike. The northern pike first came to represent the Peace Garden State in 1969. In many cases, the northern pike is often seen associated with a rather poor reputation. This is because of their slime coating. Although this specialized coating is designed to help protect this fish in its natural habitat, the slimy texture can be offputting to many.

The northern pike is beloved by anglers for two main reasons. First, they are thrilling to catch and willing to put up a fight rather than be easily reeled in. Second, for those able to reel in one of these interesting fish, they are known to be one of the best-tasting fish in the state.

Oklahoma

©USFWS / Public domain - License

The white bass is the state fish of Oklahoma. It became the state fish in 1974 due to its importance in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, an estimated 1.5 million pounds of white bass are harvested each year in the state.

The white bass is also known as the “silver bass” or “sand bass.” They are a species of least concern, with high reproduction rates and short life spans. Because of these, many lakes in Oklahoma have no creel limit on the species. However, it is important to check with local laws and regulations before fishing to ensure the lake you plan to fish at is one of these locations.

Oregon

Despite being nearly 2,000 miles apart, Oregon and Alaska actually share a state fish: the Chinook salmon. However, with this being appointed in 1961, Oregon actually has been presented by this fish for a year longer than Alaska.

Like other species of salmon, the Chinook salmon is born in freshwater, spends its adult life at sea, and returns to freshwater to spawn before passing shortly thereafter. A single female salmon can lay up to 14,000 eggs. For some, depending on where they are born and where they spend the years of their adult life, the journey back to freshwater to spawn can involve as much as 2,000 river miles.

Pennsylvania

State fish

©M Rose/Shutterstock.com

The state fish of Pennsylvania is the brook trout. This freshwater fish is common in the healthy stream ecosystems of the American Northeast. It came to represent Pennsylvania in 1970. The brook trout is the only species of trout native to Pennsylvania.

Rhode Island

Striped bass caught by angler

©Steve Brigman/Shutterstock.com

The official fish of Rhode Island is the striped bass. The striped bass is also the state fish for several other states on this list, including one not yet discussed. This fish became the state symbol of Rhode Island in 2000.

Striped bass display sexual dimorphism in terms of size. Out of a total lifespan of around 30 years, it takes the female striped bass up to 8 years to reach maturity. Once a female striped bass reaches adulthood, she is often much larger than her male counterpart.

The striped bass is a popular game fish in the state of Rhode Island.

South Carolina

Striped Bass

©iStock.com/Coast-to-Coast

Heading further south from Rhode Island, you’ll find that the official fish of South Carolina is also the striped bass. However, South Carolina appointed the striped bass as the state fish in 1972, around 28 years prior to Rhode Island.

In South Carolina, many refer to this beloved state emblem as the “striper.” They are named for the dark stripes running horizontally across their body. The largest striped bass on record was caught in 1896, and it weighed 124 pounds. For reference, the average striped bass weighs between 30 and 40 pounds.

South Dakota

While South Dakota is the only state to recognize this fish thus far, it is common in the northern range of the Missouri River basin. The official fish of South Dakota is the walleye, also known as the “yellow pike,” “yellow pikeperch,” and “yellow pickerel.” South Dakota chose the walleye as its state symbol in 1992 because it is abundant in the state’s freshwater sources.

Tennessee

With no nearby oceans, Tennessee doesn’t have a state freshwater and state saltwater fish — in fact, it has two: an official sport fish and an official commercial fish.

The official sport fish of Tennessee is the smallmouth bass (pictured). This fish was designated to represent the state in 2005, replacing the previous holder, the largemouth bass, that had held the title since 1988.

The commercial fish of Tennessee is channel catfish. Also called the “spotted cat” or “fiddler,” these bottom-feeding freshwater fish were adopted in 1988 as the state fish. They can be found in the majority of Tennessee rivers and lakes.

Texas

Guadalupe Bass

©Clinton & Charles Robertson from Del Rio, Texas & San Marcos, TX, USA / CC BY 2.0 - License

With more than 70 state symbols, Texas holds the record for the most state symbols. Two of those state symbols just so happen to revolve around fish. With the Gulf of Mexico to the east and an abundance of rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, Texas is home to a wide variety of fish. As a result, the Lone Star State has both a saltwater state fish and a freshwater state fish.

The official freshwater fish of Texas is the Guadalupe bass (pictured). This is a highly rare species of bass that is found only in Texas. Wit in the state, it is endemic to the northern and eastern Edwards Plateau. This area includes portions of four different rivers: the San Antonio River, the Guadalupe River, the Colorado River, and the Brazos River. The Guadalupe bass was appointed in 1989.

Like North Carolina,the official saltwater fish of Texas is the red drum. It was chosen to represent Texas in 2011.

Utah

Utah chose the Bonneville cutthroat trout as the official fish in 1997. The greatest majority of their range, both modern and historical, is located in Utah. This includes the tributaries of the Great Salt Lake and Sevier Lake. However, the Bonneville cutthroat trout can also be found in other states, including Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada.

Originally, this species of cutthroat trout existed in their namesake lake, Lake Bonneville. This lake existed during the Late Pleistocene period. However, at the shift of the era, when temperatures began to rise and precipitation declined, the lake lost much of its area. Today, only small, renamed portions of the lake remain, including the Great Salt Lake. Due to these geographical changes, the Bonneville cutthroat trout lost much of its habitat. The Bonneville cutthroat trout is on the Utah Sensitive Species List.

Vermont

Like some other states, rather than designating a freshwater fish or a freshwater and saltwater fish, Vermont chose to appoint fish that better represent the state. As a result, Vermont is home to a cold-water state fish as well as a warm-water state fish.

The official cold-water fish of Vermont is the brook trout. It was adopted in 1978.

The state warm-water fish was adopted in 1978. This state symbol is the walleye (pictured). Their eyes are sensitive to light, so although they can be found in many of the lakes and ponds across the state, they spend the majority of the daytime in the deep, darker areas of their homes.

Virginia

Trout vs Salmon - Brook Trout

©wwwarjag/Shutterstock.com

The official fish of Virginia is the brook trout (pictured). The brook trout is the only salmonid found in the entirety of the state. It first became the official state fish in 1993. Then, in 2011, it became the official freshwater fish when Virginia adopted a saltwater state fish.

As mentioned above, in 2011, the officials of Virginia decided to adopt a saltwater fish to go along with the already-existed freshwater state fish. Their choice appointed the striped bass as the official saltwater fish of Virginia.

Washington

Despite sitting on the western coast of the U.S., with access to the Pacific Ocean, Washington has only one state fish. However, because this fish is similar to salmon in that it is born in freshwater, matures at sea, and then returns to freshwater to spawn again, it perfectly represents the Evergreen State.

The official fish of Washington is the steelhead trout. This fish was designated as a state symbol in 1969. Fishing is one of the major economic sources of Washington, as well as a popular recreational choice, and the steelhead trout is one of the most popular catchers for anglers.

West Virginia

Brook Trout feeding

©Dec Hogan/Shutterstock.com

The official fish of West Virginia is the brook trout. The Mountain State adopted the brook trout as its state fish in 1973. The brook trout is the official state fish for nine total states.

Wisconsin

Also known as the musky, the muskellunge is one of the most significant trophy fish in Wisconsin. Wisconsin holds more world records for exceptional-size muskellunge catches than anywhere else. The current state (and world!) record comes from the Chippewa Flowage, with a musky that weighed 69 pounds and 11 ounces.

The muskellunge is the official state fish of Wisconsin. It was designated in 1955. For many, reeling in this trophy fish is the “aquatic equivalent of having a tiger by the tail,” its thrilling, fighting spirit being one of the reasons it’s so popular among anglers.

Wyoming

The cutthroat trout was named the official fish of Wyoming in 1987. One of the reasons that this fish gained this title is because it is the only species of trout native to the state of Wyoming.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © A-Z-Animals.com/AZ Animals


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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