Man catches freaky 200-year-old fish, promptly kills it [Updated!]

Image for article titled Man catches freaky 200-year-old fish, promptly kills it [Updated!]

A 40-pound shortraker fish, after minding its business for the past two centuries, was recently caught 10 miles off the coast of Alaska by a Seattle fisherman. But just looking at this thing we kinda wish he just left it where he found it.


Shortrakers, also known as rockfish, are actually quite common in the Pacific and are a prize among deep sea fisherman. They're colored in hues of orange, pink, and red, and can live at depths of nearly 4,000 feet.

Image for article titled Man catches freaky 200-year-old fish, promptly kills it [Updated!]

The record-breaking shortraker was hauled in near Sitka during the week of June 24. But what's even more impressive than its weight is its remarkable age.

Yahoo! News reports:

Troy Tidingco, Sitka area manager for the state Department of Fish and Game, said the fish is still being analyzed but he believes it is at least 200 years old. Tidingco said that would beat the current record of 175 years. Researchers are able to determine the age of a shortraker by the number of growth rings along its ear bone.

However, a previously caught rougheye rockfish, similar to the shortraker, was believed to have been 205 years old. Still, Tydingco said that record-setting fish “was quite a bit smaller” than the 41-inch specimen Liebman caught.

The fisherman who caught the shortraker, Henry Liebman, says he wants to mount it back home in Seattle, but he did provide the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with a tissue sample so its exact age could be confirmed.

Image for article titled Man catches freaky 200-year-old fish, promptly kills it [Updated!]

According to the Sitka Sentinel, the oldest shortraker (prior to this one) was 175 years.

*UPDATE: Turns out this was a fish tale all along. As USA Today is reporting, the fish isn't 200 years-old. It's only 64. They quote Angling Unlimited:

“It’s impossible to age a rockfish once it has matured just by looking at it,” said Kristen Green, groundfish project leader for the Southeast Region of Alaska. “The [ear bones] are the only way to accurately determine its age.”

The oldest aged rockfish, a rougheye, was 205 years old and measured 32 inches. Liebman’s fish measured 41 inches, which encouraged unsubstantiated claims of a 200 year old fish. Green was hesitant to jump on the 200 year old bandwagon because of her knowledge of rockfish biology.


Images: AP.


Dr. What?

This guys was fishing at 900 feet. That depth is the equivilent of 30 atmospheres of pressure. Rockfish have a gas filled sack called a swim bladder that helps them maintain their buoancy. From that depth, the swim bladder would have massively expanded and almost surely killed the fish before he got it to the surface. I study rockfishes (I'm a marine biologist in Central California) and anything deeper than about 400 feet dies when you get it to the surface. Anything deeper than about 50 feet needs assistance returning to the bottom to recompress.

This guy couldn't have known what he had until he got it the surface and by then it was dead. Cut him some slack.

-edit- Notice that the eyes are bulging out and appear to have "crystallized"? That is from air that escaped from the burst swim bladder and bubbled up behind the eyes. While not always fatal, it is a sign of severe barotrauma and strengthens my case that the fish almost certainly died before he got it.