Cast your support toward giving Columbus another official state symbol

Cast it in this light: Columbus will never be able to claim the official state cold-water game fish, the Southern Appalachian brook trout, and nothing’s special about catching the official state fish, the largemouth bass, which ranges far and wide.

But one day Columbus could be home to the official state native riverine sport fish, the shoal bass, thanks to Georgia House Bill 357, legislation that this General Assembly session aims to add to Georgia’s long list of other official state things.

Were the shoal bass so honored, Columbus would have the distinction of hosting it here in its native habitat.

Everyone knows Columbus has the Springer, the official state theater, but no matter how many musicals it puts on, it won’t be Georgia’s official state musical theater, the Jekyll Island Musical Theatre Festival; or the official Georgia folk life play, “Swamp Gravy,” or the state historic drama, “The Reach of Song.”

And no matter how much grilled meat we eat, we’ll not be holding the Slosheye Trail Big Pig Jig Festival, the official Georgia pork cook-off. And no matter how amazing the bull we shoot, we won’t be home to the Shoot the Bull Barbecue Championship, the state beef cook-off.

Of course, we still have ample access to other state stuff that all Georgians get to share: peanuts, the Georgia state crop; peaches, the state fruit; and whitetailed deer, the Georgia state mammal.

And everywhere you go for breakfast, a big hot pot of grits, the official Georgia prepared food. And the official state napalm, if you sling it on someone during an argument.

Try it with some swamp gravy and bobwhite quail, the official state game bird.

Here and there you also might see an official state bird, the brown thrasher; an official state amphibian, the green tree frog; and if you’re lucky, a honeybee, the official state insect – as distinguished from the official state butterfly, the tiger swallowtail.

And no one has cornered the market on square dancing, the official state folk dance.

Georgians may run short of the official state motto, Wisdom, Justice and Moderation – because they take moderation too far – but they’ll never run out of the official state fossil, the shark’s tooth.

State Rep. Debbie Buckner, who’s among the sponsors of House Bill 357, said making shoal bass the official state native riverine sport fish will aid small businesses that cater to fishing enthusiasts. “It just helps them with their marketing,” she said.

Such enterprises include outfitters, kayakers, hotel-motel owners and others, she added.

The shoal bass also can be found on the Ocmulgee and Flint Rivers. Here on the Chattahoochee, where we’ve restored the shoals, “it’s coming back strongly,” Buckner said.

“To be perfectly honest, it out to be our state fish,” she said, noting the largemouth bass can be found all over the place, so it’s not a native Georgia fish.

The legislation first was filed years ago, as a class project for students at Flint River Academy, she said. But in a drive to boost revenue from hunting and fishing license fees, other legislators attached the fees to the shoal bass, and those lampreys killed the bill.

The students who backed it before have since graduated, Buckner said.

Now it’s back, license-fee free, and Buckner thinks it can pass, if people help push it upstream.

Besides honoring the fish, the recognition may encourage people to preserve its habitat by keeping the river unpolluted, she said.

So help make shoal bass the official state riverine sport fish: Call your state delegate today to voice your support for Georgia House Bill 357, and help put Columbus on the map, where the shoals are now.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.