The B1G List: Ranking the State Fish of the Big Ten

By Johnny Ginter on July 1, 2013 at 4:00p
The B1G List: State Fish of the Big Ten


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?

Ahhh, youthThank God it isn't a Mackinaw

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)


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.

The B1G List: State Birds | State Mottos | State FlowersState Songs | State Fossils | State Flags | TV Shows | State Trees | State Capitals


Comments Show All Comments

ATXbucknut's picture

Ohio is unique. Therefore, I posit that Ohio's state fish should be...Phish. That legislative proposal would certainly make a splash.

Johnny Ginter's picture

theyre from vermont though!

ATXbucknut's picture

Frick!  Ok ok, the state fish of Ohio could be...a hot mermaid!  I think that would be fapulous.

jeremytwoface's picture

What is she doing?? 
Or should I say "who"?

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of boooooooooze!! And we'll drink to old Ohio 'till we wobble in our shoes.

GCG's picture

Blackened Walleye. Yum

clint5507's picture

I propose the white crappie.  Fun to catch/tasty to eat!

trasch_man's picture

I think Ohio should claim the Great White Shark as their state fish because why not? It would be the most bad ass state fish of any state. Don't mess with us, our state fish is a Great White Shark.

Michibuck's picture

Thanks, Johnny. But, what about "Fisheye Frank"?

Young_Turk's picture

+1 above.  Alternatively, we could go with Phil Fish.


ATXbucknut's picture

Ah yes, the brother of Phil Flash.  Good choice.

Earle's picture

We have barracudas, no?
EDIT:  My bad, I meant Piranhas:

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

JYBUCKEYE's picture

Yellow Perch.  Cause Sun Perch would suck!!!

Johnny Ginter's picture

throwing my weight behind this one

Scott's picture

There can only be one state fish. His name is Wylie.

Class of 2008

UrbanDreamz's picture

It has to be a Sheepshead.

"Twelve months ago on Jan. 9, my mom's birthday, I made the decision to come back. I had one goal in mind and that was to win a national championship."  ~Mike Doss

MN Buckeye's picture

I suggest 'land shark'.

pjtobin's picture

I've caught all the above fish in ohio. We can say all the above. Right?

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

MN Buckeye's picture

Minnesota actually has over 15,000 lakes that are 10 acres or larger.  When I moved here over 25 years ago, I learned that, in a state with a population of 4.5 million, there were over 1 mil registered boats. So people take their fishing very seriously. And walleye is simply the best fresh fish I have ever tasted. I go wilderness camping in the Boundary Waters every summer, and there is nothing like fresh walleye (in my special coating) fried in butter over an open fire. For action with rod and reel, bass are probably my favorite.

DannyBeane's picture

I say Dunkleosteus. Just because they're extinct doesn't make them any less of a fish. For reference

OurHonorDefend09's picture

Catfish (Biffs)?

Don't give up... Don't ever give up.

gumtape's picture

I would put catfish Biffs up against any walleye in a taste test.

High and tight boo boo

HighBallAce's picture

Sorry was thinking of someplace else

HighBallAce's picture

Either Crappie or the Smallmouth Bass!

Michael Citro's picture

I once went to a father-son bass fishing tournament with my dad on Buckeye Lake. The weather was miserable and after several hours of zero bass caught, we bought some minnows and caught about a thousand crappie in five minutes. The weather was crappy and the crappie were plentiful. Crappie for state fish!

HighBallAce's picture

Crappie are some of the best tasting fish there is! My dad and I one time caught 180 something...I know, well past the legal limit but ummm yeah. So anyway, I saw my dad fillet all of them within an hour! Haven't had crappie sense my dad passed away. I really miss his crappie!

Johnny Ginter's picture

a little guide to help you guys make your decision

Doc's picture

Living here in NW Ohio I would be caned if I didn't agree with the Walleye.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Dougger's picture

Agreed. Although there are way less hockey fights for the Walleye than in the old "Toledo Storm" days. 

I like football

painterlad's picture

Alas, we will all have Asian Carp as our state fish before too long.

To err is human. Really sucking requires having yellow stripes on your helmet.

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Why not Tuna? You can find them in every Walmart in Ohio, and Tuna spelled backward is "A Nut". Uniquely Ohio.

I like cookies.

HighBallAce's picture

Probably best that we not pick a fish that smells like M!chigan women!....Just sayin..


"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Buckeye1996's picture

Yeah. I won't show pictures but I've been shredded by walleye on several occasions. Got to use a mouth hook and pliers or they will get you either with their teeth or their frigging fins. Either way, a nasty treat if you are not careful.

Grambo2389's picture

Walleye are by far the best fish in Ohio based on the combination of taste and sport! Although carp are a lot of fun to catch, they are not good to eat. Catfish are delicious and a staple of my Ohio State Fair experience as a kid, but they just can't out do walleye. I officially vote for walleye as the state fish.

YTOWNBUCKI's picture

Maybe it should be the "elite recruit".  Seems like Urban and the boys seem to be reeling in plenty of them in Ohio lately.

CJDPHoS Board of Directors

Go get your shine box, Gumar!

AcrossTheField11's picture

Its gotta be either Yellow Perch or Walleye.  These two species support a multi-billion dollar sport fishing industry on the great lakes, with the majority of that taking place in Ohio's waters on Lake Erie due to the amiable breeding climate (year round lake temperature, water depth, eco system etc).
Perch and Walleye are both simply delectable, frequently having even the most ichthyophobic of people claiming to enjoy dining on these mild white fish.  
These two fish and the state of Ohio go together like peas and carrots.
The below photo is me wrangling a walleye back in the summer of 2011 near Port Clinton.  Took me a while to get it in the boat.  

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

NoVA Buckeye's picture

How about "AIDS Fish"?
(Sorry guys, embedding is disabled on this video)

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

NoVA Buckeye's picture

Heights doesn't sound fair. To my knowledge, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are the only B1G states with mountains.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

causeicouldntgo43's picture

Gotta go with the only Ohio fish I've heard of that gets hoisted up on New Years Eve with the same reverence and child-like wonder as the crystal ball in Times Square. I am talking about, of course, the (Port Clinton) Walleye.

Scott's picture

YES. Pictured above.

Class of 2008

unholy bucknut's picture

It has to be the smallmouth bass. they have a second adrenal glad making them one of the pound for pound best fighting fish. Plus lake erie at one point i think was reconized by field an stream for the second best smallmouth fishing destinations. Trust me im a hillbilly.

DannyBeane's picture

How about the blue channel cat or the flathead catfish? Any fish that can grow in excess of 100 lbs in freshwater will do our state proud.

741's picture

Too country.

DannyBeane's picture

Well I am from a small little town in West Ohio famous for corn, soybeans and crippling boredom...

harleymanjax's picture

Cool fish feeding Tarpon in the Keys!

"Because I couldn't go for 3"

btalbert25's picture

While I do love Smallies, I'd have to say I'm a big fan of Walleye!!!!


cplunk's picture

Lake Sturgeon! LAKE STURGEON!
it has armor. Seriously, armor.
in the words of Wikipedia, it "resembles an armored torpedo".
I rest my case.

2009buckeye's picture

100% agree and I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this fish yet. Not to mention they can grow well over the 200lb mark, and live over 100 years.

WyoBuckeye's picture

Sturgeon are definitely very cool, especially for the caviar lovers.  Another good candidate along those lines would be the paddlefish which is what we call a 'living fossil' due to its close relationship with ancient fish.  Gar are also pretty cool.  Sleek and with rows of sharp teeth, they are very menacing looking (although almost completely harmless to humans)

Breakawayspeed's picture

Wine ....Women........and WALLEYE!

Ashtabula's picture

Yellow perch...good call

Ashtabula's picture

Changed my mind, going with steelhead instead.

Buckeyeneer's picture

Johnny, thanks for putting up the picture from Odell Lake. I can't remember if I played it on Commodore 64 or Apple IIGS . . . but man! I have not thought of that game in forever!

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Johnny Ginter's picture

i would set up the lone dismantled computer in my mom's classroom in the early 90s and play odell lake for HOURS. thank god for emulators

WyoBuckeye's picture

As somebody who works with all of Ohio's fishes (not just game fish), I'd go with the rainbow darter (Etheostoma caeruleum).  It's one of my personal favorites.

Another colorful Ohio darter is the greenside darter (Etheostoma blennioides):

In fact, I love all of the darters and there are quite a few that occur in Ohio.  I'm also partial to the sand darter (Ammocrypta pellucida) due to it's sleek form.

Apart from the darters, I also like madtoms a lot.  Madtoms are miniature catfish.  Here is a mountain madtom (Noturus eleutherus).  They grow to only about 4 or 5 inches at the most.

Well, I could go on all day with this discussion as working with fish is what I do.  The small fishes are my favorites and the most interesting to me.  Everybody knows about the big game fish (walleye, perch, bass, trout, catfish, sunfish, etc) but the small stream fish are rarely seen, yet offer so many interesting characteristics.  If Ohio were to adopt an official fish, I would vote for one of the little guys.

DannyBeane's picture

When I was a little kid we volunteered at a campground up by St. Paris called Kiser lake every summer so we would camp every weekend. One of my favorite memories was going to the creeks and catching little fish with a butterfly net. The darters were always my most prized possessions.

WyoBuckeye's picture

Many of them make good aquarium fish too.  We have an aquarium in our lab that has only small fish from Ohio.  Some of the minnows and shiners have some interesting colors, but darters are definitely my favorites.

CCatanzaro's picture


Dairy-fed intellect and pure, unhinged sass.