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The strangest fish found in Alaska waters

When you head out on an Alaska fishing charter, you always know what you’re hoping to catch (most likely salmon or halibut). But with more than 500 different species swimming in Alaska waters, there is always a chance that something unexpected will end up on the end of your hook.

In recent years, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has seen more and more reports of mystery fish. Biologists attribute these catches to “The Blob,” an area of water that’s up to 10 degrees warmer than average and covers much of the northeastern Pacific Ocean from Mexico to the Bering Sea. “The Blob’s” presence means that fish that usually prefer warmer waters could travel far from home and all the way up to Alaska.

Take, for example, the bigmouth sculpin. Although these are usually found in the Gulf of Alaska at depths of 50-150 fathoms of water, the gigantic prehistoric-looking fish can seem like a mystery to unsuspecting fishers. It’s known for its large head and mouth, and it has 13-15 free dorsal fin that spin and grow to be about 30 inches. This is one of the stranger sights in the waters of Alaska.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has also had several reports in recent years involving the ragfish. These are found throughout the Gulf of Alaska and deeper waters in the Bering Sea. Ragfish have been found in Juneau, Sitka, Valdez and Gustavus. The adult fish are purplish-brown in color, have longer bodies and lack pelvic fins. The ragfish gets its name because of the lack of a bone structure that is mostly made up of cartilage.

For fish that you are more likely to reel up, but look just as weird, look no further than the Yelloweye Rockfish. The fish are a mix of yellow, orange and red with a bright golden yellow eye. Anglers may notice that the fish have black tips on their fins. These fish can be as long as 36 inches, and can really throw a fisher off their game when they are brought to the surface resembling a large goldfish.

Visitors to Alaska will often be going out on a salmon fishing charter for the chance to catch one of the five types of salmon. While Alaskans will tell you only three are worth keeping (king salmon, silver salmon and sockeye salmon), it’s fun to learn all the types. Use this trick with each of the names of the fingers corresponding to a fish type.

  1. Chum (also known as dog) rhymes with thumb.
  2. Sockeye (also known as red) is the index finger. Just imagine poking someone’s eye out with your pointer finger.
  3. King (also known as chinook) is the middle finger.
  4. Silver (also known as coho) salmon corresponds to the ring finger as it is often adorned with silver.
  5. Pink (also known as humpy) salmon is the pinky finger.

There is actually another type of salmon becoming more popular with sport fishers. The salmon shark (pictured) is gray with white markings, a wide tail, long gill slits and large teeth. It can grow to be more than 10 feet long but averages about six to eight feet. Most charters for salmon sharks leave out of Seward, Valdez, Cordova or Kodiak. This type of fishing is for an angler looking for a big fight as the sharks have an aggressive nature. The meat is said to taste like swordfish.

While the unusual fish won’t always come to the surface, it’s fun to know what’s out there. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also has this fish species guide to help you learn the different types and where they can be found in Alaska.

Fish on!

Photo Credit: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

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