It was the rich animal life of Washington that drew to the territory its first white inhabitants -- hunters, trappers, fishermen, and traders. Today, too, the State is renowned for its native fauna, especially for its game fish. The coastal waters contain five famous varieties of salmon: Chinook (king, tyee, or spring), large and game, which predominates in the Columbia River and its tributaries; sockeye (blueback), found in the Sound and the Strait and fresh water lakes; chum (dog), a lower grade fish; pink (humpback), and silver (coho). The quinnat salmon, noted for its delicacy and size, and of leading importance commercially, is a member of the king family.
Besides the salmon, several other migratory fish ascend Washington's rivers from the sea in breeding season; chief among these is the fighting steelhead, a large-sized rainbow trout. Two cutthroat trout are favorites of sportsmen: the coastal variety and the so-called Montana blackspotted trout. The blueback trout (salmo beardsleei) is found only in Lake Crescent, on the Olympic Peninsula. Also much sought are the silver trout, a fresh-water variety of sockeye, and the western spotted char, called the Dolly Warden trout. The squawfish, a predatory pike, is frequently found in lakes and streams; and the white sturgeon, of the Columbia, Snake, and Pend Oreille Rivers, largest fresh-water fish in North America, was once such a nuisance that an attempt was made to exterminate it. Species planted in Washington waters include the gamy largemouthed and smallmoutbed bass, the eastern brook trout (comparatively rare), and the mackinaw trout found in Spokane, Pend Oreille, and Stevens counties. Other importations now distributed on both sides of the Cascades are the spiny-rayed fish: perch, crappie, catfish, and sunfish.
Native salt-water fish are the halibut, now increasing in numbers; the albacore tuna, which have been taken in great numbers since 1936, when fishermen first went far out off the banks to catch them; the herring and the pilchard, used largely for oil, meal, and bait; the flounder; the red snapper; and the ling, the rock, and the black cod. Two varieties of eulachon are common: the Columbia River smelt, the heavy spring run of which draws hundreds of people to the Cowlitz River near Kelso; and the candlefish of Puget Sound, so called because the Indians used to dry it and burn it for light. The devilfish, or octopus, is also found in coastal waters; and the eel frequents some rivers, especially the Columbia.
These are some of Washington's food and game fish, but the list scarcely suggests the extent and variety of the State's marine fauna. Near the shore in shallow waters, tiny sponges and mussels cling to rocks and pilings, jellyfish pulse their way in search of food, starfish sometimes grow to unusual size, and sea anemones open and close at the slightest prod. Other forms inhabiting these grounds are sea urchins, limpets, chitons, whelks, segmented and flat worms, tube worms, periwinkles, and shell-less bronze and rose sea slugs. Among the shellfish are butter clams, the staple food of Puget Sound Indians, and still abundant today; razor clams of the ocean beaches, sought by tourists; the small Olympia oyster, famous for its flavor, and the rock oyster, both native to Washington waters, and the large Japanese oyster introduced here a few years ago, scallops with exquisitely fluted rose-tinted shells; and the geoduck, elusive and comparatively rare. Crabs of different sizes thrive in the sheltered pools and rocky coves along the many miles of coastal waters; and shrimp, small, firm, and flavorful, occur in considerable numbers in Hood Canal. Not to be overlooked are the common barnacles, which cling tenaciously to rocks, logs, and sea-going vessels.
Among oddities of the sea are the opalescent squid and the sea squirt, the latter a cylindrical, bag-like creature, tapering slightly at both ends, which attaches itself to rocks or shells and squirts water like a clam. The porpoise is not infrequently seen sporting in schools; and the hair seal, sometimes accompanied by the sea lion, also visits Puget Sound. The shark family is represented here by the mud shark, the more common dogfish not being a true shark. Even the whale leaves the deep waters now and then and detours into the blind alley of Puget Sound.