Bluegill Nets Title As State Fish
CHICAGO (AP) _ The bluegill, a hand-sized fish with blue-green stripes and a light orange belly, swam away Tuesday with the title of Illinois state fish, outdistancing such slippery contenders as the largemouth bass and channel catfish in ballots cast by nearly 800,000 schoolchildren.
″I voted for it because it’s a pretty fish and I like to eat them, too,″ said Coree Parks, a 14-year-old eighth-grader from Newberry Math and Science Academy where the results were announced. ″My dad catches them all the time.″
About 300 academy students clapped and cheered as an aquarium containing a school of the winners was unveiled by Jayne Thompson, wife of Gov. James R. Thompson.
″I thought the coho salmon was going to win,″ said Angel Carrasquillo, 13, who favored the bluegill. ″I guess the bluegill won because it’s so easy to catch.″
Rodney W. Horner, a fish pathologist with the Illinois Department of Conservation, agreed that the fish’s popularity with anglers probably had something to do with the outcome of the election.
″A fish biologist couldn’t have come up with a better choice,″ Horner said as students attending the ceremony crowded around the aquarium to get a close look at their choice.
″About 80 percent of the fish caught in Illinois are bluegills,″ said Horner, adding that the small fish is found in all parts of the state.
Horner said that between 1 million and 3 million young bluegills are released into about 100 lakes and ponds across Illinois each year as part of the state’s fish management program.
″It’s probably the No. 1 fish for anglers, and largemouth bass like to eat bluegills for lunch, too,″ said Horner.
The State Board of Education organized the election called by the General Assembly for children from kindergarten through eighth grade. The election, conducted between Sept. 22 and Nov. 15, was designed to teach youngsters how to vote.
Of 779,714 votes cast, the bluegill received 28 percent, while the largemouth bass and the channel catfish each attracted 23 percent. The coho salmon and carp each had 9 percent and the white crappie received 6 percent of the vote, Mrs. Thompson said. Write-ins accounted for about 2 percent of the vote.
Schools were not required to participate. But 2,827 of 4,581 of public and non-public elementary schools did. Based on the latest school enrollment figures for the 1985-86 school year, 52 percent of the more than 1.5 million elementary pupils in Illinois cast ballots.