Virginia’s “Official” Saltwater Fish

Dealing as they do with weighty matters, the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday conferred the honor of “official saltwater fish” to the striped bass, otherwise known to Southerners as the “rockfish.”

In many ways, this is cause for celebration. Rockfish are extremely tasty and tend to be caught in the cold months, when sustenance is needed. They can be cooked any number of ways, such as grilling, sauteeing and baking. I know a woman who steams them and then serves the fillet bits like a shrimp cocktail. I like to slow-roast mine with winter vegetables.

But there are questions about the rockfish and its haughty designation.

Del. Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) almost killed the catch, saying the lowly and oily menhaden was far more important commercially to the Old Dominion. What’s more, it sustained English settlers at Jamestown in hard times.

I, for one, am tired of romanticized survival stories for, frankly, what were a bunch of indulgent gentlemen who lawn-bowled all day. There are other possibilities for the state fish, although not necessarily of the saltwater variety. One is the blue channel cat, which can grow so huge it can swallow a man whole like Jonah. Or the snakehead, a feared invader that a few years back caused the biggest alien invasion scare in D.C. since Klaatu and Gort landed their flying saucer on the Mall in 1951.

The rockfish is a fine fish for the Old Dominion. But others do claim it, too, and it may have Obama-like birthing issues. Consider this passage from a 1994 New Yorker assessment:

“Striped bass are in many respects the perfect New York fish. They go well with the look of downtown. They are, for starters, pin-striped, The lines along their sides are black fading to light cobalt blue at the edges. The dime-sized scales look newly minted, and there is an urban glint to the eye and a mobility to the predatory jaw. If only they could talk, they would talk fast.”

But if it could talk, would it say, “I really belong in Virginia?”

Peter Galuszka

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22 responses to “Virginia’s “Official” Saltwater Fish”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, leaving all politics aside, I'd like the recipe for slow-roasted rockfish with winter vegetables. Sounds very tasty, and we could use the sustenance up here in Arlington, MA, this winter…

  2. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    I get a good sized rockfish, usually filets but sometimes with head and backbones. Heat oven to 350 degres or so, Add in peeled and cut carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatos, onions, leek — whatever you like.
    Maybe add some water or fish stock but not too much.
    Season to taste. Rosemary works well, garlic ditto. Bake until the fish flakes and the veggies are tender — maybe 45 to 60 minutes.
    Good bread — French Italian or sour dough goes well to soak up the sauce.


    PS: Do you live on Hilsdale Road, by any chance?

  3. Anonymous Avatar


    The Striped bass is rightfully a New England fish, the nations premier Striped bass tournament is on Martha's Vineyard, after all, and the fish caught there routinely dwarf the puny Chesapeake Rockfish.


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I do it Portuguese style:

    2 lbs fish fillets (any white fish will work)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 onion, chopped
    1 leek, cleaned and sliced (white part only)
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes (about 1 medium sized can)
    2 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 cup white wine
    1/2 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon oregano
    1/2 teaspoon rosemary
    salt and pepper
    1 green pepper, sliced
    1 lemon, sliced
    1 bunch fresh parsley, minced

    Saute the vegetables,, then add tomatoes and tomatos sauce and simmer about 15 mnutes to taste and thickness.

    In a baking pan layer part of the sauce, fish filets, add the wine. top the fish with lemon slices than add the rest of the sauce and top with parsely, oregano and or cilantro.

    Bake till the fish flakes.

    Works well with small potatoes or shell pasta, too.


  5. Rockfish are not really a saltwater fish. Most (all?) spend part of their life in freshwater and part in saltwater. For example, they spawn in fresh water. Most of the rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay spawn in the spring in the Susquhanna Flats – a freshwater confluence of the Susquehanna River and the northern part of the Chesapeake Bay.

    Some rockfish have become landlocked after dams were built while they were busy spawning. Thumbing their noses at the Virginia General Assembly, these freshwater rockfish lived their lives happily never seeing salt water again. A number of the landlocked populations have been spawning for generations far from the nearest drop of salt water.

    Rockfish are routinely caught right along with large mouth bass in the Potomac River running through Washington, DC. The warm water discharge area of the power plant in Alexandria, VA (which LarryG denies exists) is a particularly good spot to try for Potomac rockfish.

    Jackson Miller was right about the menhaden. Or, at least, the menhaden needs help. Once prevalent in huge schools in the Chesapeake, each menhaden is capable of eating a stunningly large amount of algae. Given the excessive nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay it is especially critical that algae eating fish be protected. However, this is not the case.

    The Texas-based Omega Protein Company maintains an industrial menhaden fishing operation in Reedville, VA. Replete with spotter planes, the Omega fishing machine uses factory fishing ships to suck up vast schools of Chesapeake menhaden in vacuum like devices. The menhaden are largely used to add protein to chicken feed.

    The overfishing of menhaden has seriously depleted the stocks of the fish in the Chesapeake Bay. The facts are well documented here .

    In an indictment of the General Assembly's intelligence, the collapse of the menhaden population in the bay will almost certainly be followed by a collapse of the rockfish polulation (which feeds heavily on the menhaden).

    Needless to say, the Omega Protein Company is a large donor to "the most incompetent government money can buy". Look here .

    Let's review:

    1. Incapable of acting on hundreds of important bills (which were "left in committee") the Virginia General Disaster turned it's keen intellect to the critical initiative of naming a state saltwater fish.

    2. Unable to come up a truly salt water fish, the General Fiasco decided to name an anadromous fish it's state salt water fish. This was critical because the already named state fish (the brook trout) was lonely.

    3. With pockets full of Omega Protein's campaign money the brilliant geniuses of the Goofball Assembly sat slack jawed and glassy eyed as one of their few literate members actually recommended a salt water fish for the distinction of being the state's official salt water fish.

  6. Virginia officially officially ranks number 1.

    Number one in alcohol related motorcycle deaths.

  7. I can rremember sailing through huge schools of menhaden.

    No more.

  8. Th

    "The EPA said the revised rules would cost half as much and provide nearly the same health benefits."

    What were they thinking? Why spend twice as much for the same benefits?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    I have to say that Groovy Groveton really nailed it:

    1, 2, 3!!!

    Now the question is:

    What is Mr. Gooze or Mr. Groovy going to do to change this condition.

    These idiots are fiddling while the Commonwealth burns.


  10. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views


    You say: "These idiots are fiddling while the Commonwealth burns."

    Are you refering to Mr. Gooze and G. Groovy Groveton?

    Or are you refering to the General Assembly?

    Peter Galuszka

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Sorry for any confusion:

    It is the Clown Show, the General Catastrophy that are the fiddling idiots.

    We just need answers. What to do about them?


  12. For once I agree with AZA, and Groveton.

  13. AZA:

    We get to decide the fate of each and every member of the Gassy Appendage this November. All the Delegoons, all the Senasnobs.

    Of course, we'll first be presented by the winners of the party primaries. This is where a longer list of potential candidates gets winnowed down to just two obvious nutjobs. As I recall, about 1 in 20 eligable voters will vote in an open primary. That 5% represents the lunatic fringe on both sides of the political spectrum. The closed party cauceses are even worse. Not even a pretense of sanity. Needless to say, the lunatic fringe often proffers … well, lunatics. Our best hope here is that the proffered candidates will be Start Trek fans. If so, they will remember the immortal words of Mr. Spock, "In an insane world, the sane man must appear insane.". All viable candidates must appear insane during the primary to garner votes from the lunatic fringe and then (hopefully) revert to semi-sanity for the general election. Ronald Reagan comes to mind.

    Unfortunately, far too often, it's the truly insane who are put forth by the major parties. Our best hope when this happens is that the other party puts forth a pseudo-insane candidate. Sometimes, for sure, both candidates are genuinely insane, rabid advocates of the lunatic fringe's radical agenda. That's the worst case – which happens far too often.

    Here are my rules:

    1. Remember Mr. Spock and discount everything a candidate says in the primary.

    2. After the primary, evaluate the candidates remembering that there will still be some real or pseudo-insanity required to "get out the base". Try to categorize candiates as really crazy vs. just play acting crazy.

    3. If both candidates are just play acting, vote for your favorite party. For me, that would be Republican.

    4. If one is play acting and the other is the real deal, vote for the play actor regardless of party.

    5. If both are certifyable, vote for an independent, write in a name or just don't vote.

    A political system is like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Effective pursuit of human happiness is at the top. Sanity is at the base. Right now, we're trying to achieve the base level of government. Don't worry about the candidate's stated positions on issues (other than as a gauge of their sanity). Instead, try to elect sane people who, you hope, will govern with sanity.

    Remember – politicians NEVER do what they promise after they are elected. So, why vote based on their promises. Ask instead, "Would I ever invite this person over to my place for dinner?".

  14. That is the most depressing thing I ever read.

  15. Actually, I write in a name pretty often. I encourage others to do so.

  16. And Hydra …

    the best name to write in for any office?

    Groovy G. Groveton

    For example, it has come to my attention that Virginia has two state fish but no state song.

    If elected, I will rectify that huge and critical problem.

    I propose to nominate Dirks Bentley's "What Was I Thinkin'?" as the new state song. The song may need some new lyrics to become Virginia-centric. For example, it will need to change to be "What Were We Thinkin'?" to reflect the pluralistic nature of the commonwealth.

    We will also need to add some new historical facts to the lyrics. Such as …

    Planted tobacco 'till the soil wore out

    What were we thinkin'?

    Elected a striper to join the brook trout

    What were we thinkin'?

    Picked the wrong side in War 'Tween the States

    What were we thinkin'?

    Kept losin' boys 'till Grant crashed the gates

    What were we thinkin'?

    Massive resistance meant we fought it agin

    What were we thunkin'?

    Let a racist named Byrd run for governor and win

    What were we thinkin'?

    We knew there'd be hell to pay
    But we did it all anyway

    You get the idea. My campaign is simple – we cannot have two state fish and no state song. We either need to reduce by one fish or add at least one song. I also leave open the possibility of adding a second, salt water based song to maintain parallelism with the fish.

    Perhaps something along the lines of Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

    I'll spare you the lyrics.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    All this is fun…

    If it were not so terribly important.

    I thought that EMR, Groveton and others were on board for an AntiPartisan push.

    Seems to me I recall a lot of converstaion about that here and elsewhere just before the 2010 Fall elections.


  18. MGM:

    Your point is taken. However, Gooze's column about picking the state fish seemed a bit whimsical. So, a bit of whimsy in return seemed fair.

    On the Anti-partisan front – don't hold your breath. I know a few state legislators from Northern Virginia. I look for the politicians who seem independent and seek them out. I vote for them when they are on my ballot. I contribute money to some of them.

    I've asked them the same question, "Why aren't you getting Northern Virginia what it needs from the state government?". They all say the same thing in reply, "We don't have the votes in Richmond.". Then, I say, "That's because you think in terms of NoVa vs. elsewhere instead of urban vs suburban vs small town vs rural". Note: the use of core, confusing words is the only way to communicate with politicians. I continue, "You should be forming alliances with legislators in other urban and suburban areas in Virginia. If you did that, you'd have the votes.".

    The sad reply?

    "We caucus by party, not by geography.".

    My translation?

    "Constituents are much less important to us than party affiliation.".

    The only serious cure, in my humble opinion, is an independent party in Virginia.

    The primary process all but guarantees the Democrats and Republicans will only put party faithful on the ballot.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    MGM is right, too bad he is up in PA and cannot participate.

    Groveton: Very important observations.

    As to AntiPartisanism if Egypt can do it, so can Virginia.

    Check out the posts by EMR on 1 November and on 8 November in the archives.

    Now that the General Catastrophe is over, it is the season for VA senate and house to declare if they will run again. Mary Margaret W. says she will not…

    Here is an alternative to the Groovy funny business non-plan that will only prolong the agony:

    Everyone within the sound of this Blog calls their favorite two or three MainStream Media types and says “I am CONSIDERING running as an AntiPartisan candidate.”


    Call a constitutional convention to

    1. Take Agency control out of the hands of political parties and their political contributors.

    2. Transform governance structure so that the primary level of decision is at the primary level of impact.

    3. The terms of the state executive and all regional executives are two four year terms.

    4. State, Regional and Community legislative bodies meet at least monthly and are never in long ‘recess.’

    5. All legislative districts are drawn by a NonPartisan body elected to perform the task every ten years at the Community level.

    6. Expand Freedom of Information and governance transparency.

    Self limit time in office in state and regional legislatures to 8 years. (two senate terms, four house terms)


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Well, well, well.

    We see Mr. Gooze’ humerus poke-fun-at-the-idiot-legislators blog post has resulted in a concrete proposal for action.

    The question is will Mr. Gooze put in a “considering a run” call?

    Stay tuned.


  21. Gooze Views Avatar
    Gooze Views

    There'd be something a little "fishy" about my running for office.

    Mr. Gooze.

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Gooze:

    There is nothing ‘fishy’ about an intelligent, articulate citizens with broad experience ‘considering’ running for office.

    You may have misread AZA, he is not saying that all those ‘considering’ a run will or should run.

    As he explained it to me:

    If all the Baconators as you call them sent 3 emails with essentially the same platform / agenda that would be 100 or more messages to MainStream Media. MainStream Media loves trends. The Blog aggregaters will trumpet the agenda to Google and Bing. This will alert others who are fed up – see the poll results from around the Fall 2010 elections – and who knows who might run.

    A massive, commonwealth-wide write-in campaign would cost nothing. Just post on web-sites the names of those who have signed onto the AntiPartisan agenda district by district.

    MainStream media would help because it was ‘news’ even if it undermine the usual suspects from the two Clans that you are always harping about – harping correctly we might add.

    I know for a fact, some calls / emails have already been sent.

    Get on board.


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