Alabama’s State Saltwater Fish is Great to Catch, But Not to Eat

If you ask your friends, neighbors, or coworkers to guess Alabama’s State Saltwater Fish, you’ll probably get a wide range of answers.

Some might say Red Snapper, and that would be a good guess, since we do call ourselves the Red Snapper Capital of the World. Some might say Grouper, Flounder, or Mahi-Mahi due to their popularity on local restaurant menus. Heck, with the many species of Shark we have in the Gulf, that wouldn’t be a bad guess either.

The correct answer, as those in the know can tell you, is Tarpon. And you might get some funny looks and follow-up questions when you reveal that information.

Tarpon was designated as Alabama’s State Fish in 1955, and it was later redesignated in 1975 as our State Saltwater Fish to allow the distinction of State Freshwater Fish for the Largemouth Bass.

But there’s a pretty specific reason why most casual Alabama Seafood fans don’t know much about Tarpon, if they’ve heard of it at all. That’s because you won’t find Tarpon on any restaurant menus in Alabama, or anywhere else.

Even with the recent surge in sustainability efforts that’s been putting “trash fish” (and for the record, they ain’t trash) in the rotation at some regional eateries, Tarpon is just too much work for not enough reward. It’s technically edible, but you’ll have to eat or cut around a lot more bones than a typical finfish, and the unpleasant odor doesn’t help either.

So how exactly did Tarpon earn this illustrious official designation from the State of Alabama? With this fish, it’s less about the cooking and more about the catching.

After all, they didn’t name them the “Fighting Tarpon” and the “Silver King” without a good reason. Weighing in at up to 100 pounds each, this popular gamefish will put up a fight if you snare one on your line. And because full-grown Tarpon spend their time in mixed waters like bays, salt marshes, and tidal pools—they’ve even been known to swim upstream in fresh waters—you can find them in lots of different nearshore locations. You’ll get the most bites if you go fishing in summer or early spring, too.

If you’ve ever caught a Tarpon, you know they’re real beauties. Their shiny, silvery scales make this fish the perfect candidate for a trophy or a photo.

Now that you’ve learned the basics about Alabama’s State Saltwater Fish, don’t settle for impressing your friends with trivia questions. Get out there and reel one in for yourself!