Yeah, fish! Why not? Gotta have a state aquatic something, might as well be fish.
Truth be told, I do not trust fish. It's not that I don't enjoy their tasty flesh, or catching them with a rod, reel, and a hook with a piece of Vienna sausage on the end, but honestly it's difficult for me to really and truly appreciate something without an esophagus.
Yes, Nerdly McNerdison, I am well aware that technically they in fact do have an esophageal tract, but my point is that when I'm able to look right down the gullet of something and see the contents of their stomach, I don't see a friend, I see an ancient foe that must be dealt with in the harshest terms possible. I see an adversary that would as soon place me on his plate as I would place him on mine. I see a big gross mouth going "awp awp awp awp."
But even though I don't like fish on a personal level, I respect them. They breathe water, which is not something I've mastered, and they are also very adept at being slimy which I'm working on but am still not great at yet. So it's no surprise that they proudly represent the states of the Big Ten in a noble way indeed. Here's the list.
11. Wisconsin- Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)
Unlike most weeks, this list is going to be a celebration of achievement, not an orgy of hate. When I looked this thing up and saw "muskellunge" I assumed that Wisconsin had unearthed one of the Old Gods and was worshiping it via legislative dictum, but then I realized that that's just the formal name for your every day muskie and was somewhat less impressed.
Still, muskies are reliable game fish that are fun to catch, and my purposefully limited understanding of Xavier University leads me to believe that this fish is their official mascot. Also they have big serrated sharp teeth, which freak me right out so let's move on.
10. & 9. Nebraska and Iowa- Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
A regular ol' catfish. Apparently you can use ivory soap to catch these things, and a wide variety of scented lures with a strong odor, such as gum (yes, really), Kool-Aid, cheese, or even your mom's dirty underwear. Catfish are gross bottom feeders and will put pretty much anything in their mouths, which the 3 year old version of me respects greatly.
Why a fish with an unbelievable sense of smell and taste would go after garbage with pretty ridiculous consistency is beyond me, but hey guess what they're dumb fish who taste good, so let's not look a gift horse in the mouth, okay?
8. Illinois- Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Bluegill were the staple of my youth. At one point, I had convinced myself that I was in fact the greatest bluegill fisherman that had ever lived, as my consistently brilliant plan of attack would net me dozens of bluegill whenever I was at a legitimate fishing spot. "CORNER THEM IN THE WEEDS," I would yell my my grandparents, as if a 9 foot aluminum boat would be herding anything anywhere. But, I'd still be successful and feel like a total boss when I ate 'em later (the fish, not my grandparents).
Then I got older and realized bluegill are possibly the dumbest of the panfish. I have caught these things with literally a hook tied to thread. If you toss some breadcrumbs at a school of them and punch the water, you'll probably kill a couple. Try it, I'm serious.
7., 6., & 5. Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania- Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
WOAH TROUT PARTY 2K13!!!
It's actually not that surprising that three states list the brook trout as their official state fish, as it's not only one of the more popular fish in the US for anglers and people who like to ride the coattails of anglers, but it's also one of the most popular game fish worldwide.
There are a few reasons for this. One, it's a pretty cool looking fish. You can catch one, hold it up in firm defiance of Mother Nature, and then huck it back where you got it from to gain the respect of your fishing peers. No one is giving you dap for your stupid bluegill or sunfish. Secondly, you could just eat it instead of throwing it back because they're pretty tasty. Lastly, they can put up a bit of a fight meaning that you'll feel less guilty afterwards about your pride in using thousands of years of human engineering to take down a creature that weighs two or three pounds and has the cognitive capacity of a beetle.
4. Indiana- Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
A confession: I was almost a Tennessee Vols fan. Not because I had any connection to the state, or because I liked Peyton, or enjoyed Fulmer being the narco god-king of Knoxville. No, it was because every Saturday morning, I would sit down at 7 or so to watch Bill Dance catch largemouth bass while wearing the same freaking Vols hat every single day.
His folksy hokum was as hypnotizing to me as it was to the fish, because it felt like every time he'd pull a largemouth near his boat, I could swear they almost audibly sighed "DAMMIT" and resigned themselves to their fate.
Rest in peace, fishslayer. May flights of spinning lures sing thee to thy rest.
...Haha naw, just kidding, Bill Dance is still alive and kicking in defiance of Lane Kiffin and an angry largemouth bass-loving god.
3. Maryland- Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
I have had a serious fish crush on the striped bass for as long as I can remember. They're huge, beautiful fish that can weigh over 100 pounds, spend part of their lives in both fresh and salt water, and can live up to 30 years. I have been on several fishing boat tours in an attempt to catch one, ONE, of these things and so far I have not been successful. They are my white whale, except striped and a fish.
One of the things that makes them so appealing is that they're basically monster versions of fish that you can catch in rivers and ponds all around the Midwest. Safe looking, but also potentially big enough to mount its' head like an elk and put it in your living room.
2. Minnesota- Walleye (Sander vitreus)
The most Midwestern of Midwestern fish. Most of these other states selected fish that are cool, or popular, or whatever, but really Minnesota is the only state on this list where their official fish is such a large part of their actual state culture. Considering that Minnesota is the land of ten thousand lakes (which, if you're laughing at because that sounds patently ridiculous, you're right. Minnesota actually has nearly 12,000), it's cool that they singled out one specific fish to hold up as a cultural marker.
Walleye, like muskies, have sharp pointy teeth, but since they're a little smaller it's more cute than threatening. Feel free to fill up the comments section with pictures of walleye bites to prove me wrong (please don't actually do this).
1. Ohio- Walleye? (Sander vitreus???) IN REALITY- NOTHING
Okay, you got me. Ohio does not, in fact, have an official state fish. It's true. We screwed up.
"But wait, Johnny! What about this?"
Cute, but I can't find anything that suggests the walleye is the actual official state fish of the state of Ohio. So here's what I propose: I, Johnny Ginter, will await for some kind of consensus from the 11W commentariat as to what the official state fish of Ohio should be. When consensus is reached, I will write a sternly yet fairly worded letter to Governor John Kasich, demanding that our views be taken into consideration. I know that you'll make a worthy choice, which is why against all odds, Ohio remains at the top of this very non-arbitrary list.
To me, it is UNACCEPTABLE that states like Maryland and Iowa and Minnesota get to revel in the glory of having an official state fish, while we here in the greatest sub-federal administrative district in the history of the planet do not get to know such bliss. So I call on you, gentle reader, to suggest a fish worthy of our mighty state, so that I may implore our elected leaders to action.
Should you do so, I will post my letter here within the week, and make as big of a stink on Twitter about it as a dude with 1300 followers possibly can. Godspeed.
So there you have it. Your mission is before you. Do not let me down. I'll see you all next week when we rank the best heights of the B1G. In some ways... not a fair fight.