A 20-pound channel catfish is held by biologist Leonard Jirak in 2009. Michael Pearce File photo
A 20-pound channel catfish is held by biologist Leonard Jirak in 2009. Michael Pearce File photo

Politics & Government

The next state symbol for Kansas: The channel catfish?

By Beccy Tanner

The Wichita Eagle

February 01, 2015 11:29 AM

First there was the sunflower, then the meadowlark, cottonwood and a whole list of other state symbols.

Now comes the channel catfish.

The whiskery, slippery and delectably-tasty fish was suggested as the next state symbol last week to the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Kansas House of Representatives. House Bill No. 2116 recommends naming it the official fish of Kansas.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism nominated the fish and department officials are hoping Kansas students will now encourage their legislators to support the bill.

“There has been several times in the past 20 years that groups come to the Legislature asking for a state fish,” said Doug Nygren, fisheries section chief for Wildlife and Parks. “We thought this would be a good exercise in government to have children petition.

“Because the new state fossil was declared last year, we thought there might be some potential here.”

Among catfish, there are three species – the blue, channel and flathead.

“The channel catfish is a native species to Kansas,” Nygren said. “It is available in every stream, lake and river in Kansas.”

It is also the species of fish that helped make the Kansas Fish and Game fish hatchery in Pratt a nationally known facility and is linked forever with Lewis Lindsay Dyche.

Dyche (pronounced “dike”) was a well-known taxidermist and professor at the University of Kansas. At the turn of the 20th century, he was appointed the Kansas fish and game warden.

He was instrumental in persuading the state Legislature to fund and expand the state fish hatchery. He also helped establish hunting seasons for Kansas animals and game birds.

“The methods that were developed then are the basis of raising modern-day, cultured catfish today,” Nygren said. “That source of food became used in commercial markets throughout the Southwest.”

Before any bill can be passed, the proposal will go to a committee — in this case, the House’s Agriculture and Natural Resources committee.

Not all proposals for state symbols get through the committee process. In 2012 there was a failed attempt to name the Cairn terrier –the same type of dog as Toto – as the state dog of Kansas.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

Kansas state symbols (in order of adoption)

Flower: Sunflower. Even though it had previously been declared a noxious weed, Kansans had a change of heart with the wildflower that decorates nearly every road in Kansas. Adopted in 1903.

Bird: Western meadowlark. The Kansas State Audubon Society asked schoolchildren in 1925 to select a state bird. The winner was the western meadowlark, followed by the bobwhite and northern cardinal. Adopted in 1937.

Tree: Cottonwood. The trees are found along creeks and streams throughout the western two-thirds of the state. Adopted in 1937.

Song: “Home on the Range.” Adopted in 1947.

Animal: Buffalo. Thousands of buffalo once inhabited the Plains, and they are mentioned in the first line of the state song. Adopted in 1955.

Turtle: Ornate box turtle. Selected after a campaign launched by a sixth-grade class from Caldwell. Adopted in 1986.

Insect: Honeybee. Selected after Kansas students petitioned state officials. Adopted in 1976.

Soil: Harney silt loam. The dirt is characteristic of prairie soil. Adopted in 1990.

Amphibian: Barred tiger salamander. Nominated by second-graders at OK Elementary School in Wichita. Adopted in 1994.

Grass: Little Bluestem. The prairie grass is found in all 105 counties. Adopted in 2010.

Fossils: Tylosaurus and pteranodon. The tylosaurus was a marine lizard that grew to be about 45 feet. The pteranodon was a massive 25-foot flying reptile. They were picked as state fossils because some of the first discoveries of the creatures were made in Kansas. Adopted in 2014.