COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Last month, NBC4 explained why Ohio is one of just three states without a state fish. From low priority to a decades-long argument between walleye and bass anglers, a state with a Great Lake and 60,000 miles of rivers and streams still doesn’t claim a state fish.
NBC4 is looking to change that by taking our audience through the legislative process and having some fun putting a spotlight on the natural world.
But before any lawmaker can carry state fish legislation through the Ohio Capitol, a fish needs to be chosen.
Our article last month asking for state fish suggestions received over 100 submissions. Most were well reasoned, and some even had a sense of humor. Below are the poll choices (in no particular order) chosen by NBC4, plus the reasoning behind them.
Vote using the form at the bottom of the article. Voting will close Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. and the winner will be announced shortly after.
Walleye: People from across the world come to Lake Erie to catch walleye, which account for 85% of fish caught along Ohio’s lakeshore, helping the lake’s fishing contribute $1 billion annually to the state economy, said Scott Hale, executive administrator of fish management and research for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.
Walleye enjoy cultural significance in northern Ohio, including the Toledo Walleye professional ice hockey team and Port Clinton’s annual walleye festival and New Year’s Eve midnight drop of a massive fiberglass fish.
In NBC4’s call for submissions, walleye was the most popular specific species, making up nearly 1 in 3 entries.
Smallmouth bass: Taken literally, should a “state fish” represent the entire state? Unlike walleye, ODNR’s Hale said, smallmouth bass can be caught in all 88 Ohio counties. A common and popular fish in the Midwest and the Ohio River Valley, the smallmouth bass has battled the walleye in Ohio’s state fish debates of the past.
As one submitter described the smallmouth bass: “It is native to Ohio and found in every county of the state, making it a true Ohio fish!”
Yellow perch: Also known as the lake perch, this pan-sized, golden-to-brassy-colored fish with dark stripes can be caught across Ohio, from Lake Erie to rivers, reservoirs and ponds.
As submitter David wrote, it could be a compromise fish to “break the log jam between walleye and bass.”
Additionally, unlike walleye and smallmouth bass, no state has yellow perch as its state fish. Minnesota, South Dakota and Vermont have walleye and Tennessee has the smallmouth bass, while another dozen-plus states declared other bass species their state fish.
Combination walleye/bass: Consider it a unity ticket that brings together the feuding sides of Ohio’s past state fish debates. As submitter Lynn wrote, both fish represent “two distinct fishing methods and satisfy northern Ohioans and southern Ohioans and Ohioans in between both with pride and palate.”
Other fish common to Ohio waters that received notable submissions include the bluegill, channel catfish, crappie and muskellunge.
Goldfish: Finally, four people submitted to NBC4 the humble and lovable goldfish, with one person’s reasoning simply being: “Just because they’re cool.”