Rarest catch of all? Oarfish snagged by angler off Catalina

Crewman attempts to gaff oarfish. Photo: Via Fortune Sportfishing
In what could be a first off Southern California, an angler has hooked and reeled in serpent-like deep-sea denizen called an oarfish.

The bizarre catch of a 20-foot oarfish was made June 29 aboard the Fortune, a San Diego-based boat that was fishing at Santa Catalina Island.

For some reason the catch was not heavily publicized. But meteorologist Chris Dunn, who writes a column called “The Fishing Weatherman,” reported the news on his blog.

Crew tries unsuccessfully to haul oarfish aboard. Photo: Via Fortune Sportfishing
The fish was snagged and near death. When it was brought close to the boat, a crewman attempted to collect it with a gaff, but the flesh was too soft for the gaff to take hold.

“It was very surprising, a once-in-a-lifetime thing to even see one,” Smith is quoted as saying. The fish was eventually abandoned.

Oarfish reside in the dark depths of the world’s oceans, between 1,000 and 3,000 feet, and can reach nearly 50 feet in length.

Because of their long and slender bodies, their mane-like dorsal fins, and their giant, saucer-shaped eyes, they’re believed to have helped spawn myths about sea monsters and dragons that rise to the surface to sink ships and steal crewmen.

They’re rarely seen, and those that are seen are usually dead or close to death, but for some reason Catalina has become a hot spot for sightings.

This represents at least the third oarfish sighting in two years at the island, which is located 26 miles west of Los Angeles. A 17-footer was found and collected for scientific studies in early June, and an 18-foot oarfish was collected in 2013.

In 2006, a 15-foot live oarfish was found languishing near the surface off Catalina. Harbormaster Doug Oudin snorkeled alongside the critter in the moments before it perished.

–Hat tip to Phil Friedman Outdoors

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