Sometimes you really don’t know what is on the other end of your line. The ocean is a vast and mysterious place, and for commercial fishermen, recreational anglers, and researchers, it can also be quite bizarre. The year’s not over yet, but here are our top picks for the strangest, rarest, and simply goofiest looking fish caught so far in 2014.

1. The jellynose

Researchers received this jellyfish after anglers caught it off a pier. Image courtesy FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and NOAA
Researchers received this jellyfish after anglers caught it off a pier. Image courtesy FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and NOAA

The anglers who caught this jellynose fishing off Florida’s Pensacola Beach may have expected dinner, but the unfamiliar fish pulled in may have made them lose their appetites.

After some intial confusion, experts identified it as a jellynose. It is a mystery how this deep-water creature found its way to the shallow waters of Pensacola Beach. Little is known about jellynose, other than the fact that they are known to exist in the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and parts of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

“Most records of this species are from deeper than 300 meters,” stated the institute’s curator of collections Joan Herrera. “It is also pretty rare.”

Fishermen occasionally catch the jellynose as bycatch and consider it poor table fare.

2. Something out of Alien

There are plenty of strange creatures in the deeper parts of the world’s waters, but few are as sinister looking as this one. Photographs of this odd-looking deep sea critter were posted online by reddit user wolfboyx last month, who claimed to have found the fish while researching sperm whales in an undisclosed location. Experts have subsequently identified it as a black dragonfish.

Greatly resembling a cross between the chestbursters of the Alien universe and perennial Spider-Man villain Venom, the black dragonfish resides 5,000 to 7,000 feet below the surface. The fish is characterized by its wicked-looking teeth and bioluminescent photophores along its body, which light up when disturbed. Thankfully, the largest these underwater terrors can grow up to is about 15 inches in length.

3. The deep sea goblin

This goblin shark survived its visit to the surface and was later released.
This goblin shark survived its visit to the surface and was later released. Image screenshot of video by GeoBeats News on YouTube.

It is not unusual for shrimp fishermen in Key West to haul up strange and unusual items, but Captain Carl Moore was flabbergasted when his crew brought an 18-foot-long goblin shark aboard. According to The Miami Herald, the creature was found caught in his ship’s trawling net about 15 miles off the Florida coast in April.

“First thing I told them boys was, ‘Man, he’s ugly! Looks prehistoric to me,’” Moore told CNN.

While beauty may be subjective, Moore is correct in that the goblin shark could be called a “living fossil.” Scientist do not know much about the species, although it is suspected that the sharks are the only remaining representatives of a lineage stretching back 125 million years. Goblin sharks usually dwell in the ocean depths at over 300 feet below the surface. As such, only one other specimen has ever been caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

4. The square-toothed biter

This pacu sports some serious chompers, and managed to bite straight through an Ohio angler's first hook.
This pacu sports some serious chompers, and managed to bite straight through an Ohio angler’s first hook. Image screenshot of video on mansfieldnewsjournal.com.

Coleman Browning, 17, was eager for some nice-sized catfish when he arrived at the Number 3 Reservoir near Shelby, Ohio in June. Instead, he caught a fish most commonly found in South America’s Amazon River—and similar to the notorious piranha. According to the Mansfield News Journal, the angler initially thought it was some sort of carp before he saw the uncanny, human-like teeth.

“When the game warden came out and saw me catch it, he said, ‘What is that?’” Browning said. “I told him, ‘I think I just caught a piranha.’”

This fish is called a pacu, and it is perhaps one of the more commonly caught fish on this list. The pacu has a notorious reputation for biting swimmers, and its eerily human-like teeth also add to the fish’s overall creepiness. Thanks to its popularity with aquarium owners, escaped or released pacu fish are actually more common in American waters than you might think.

5. The piebald tarpon

A piebald tarpon is a rare sight, but that doesn't make it any easier to catch.
A piebald tarpon is a rare sight, but that doesn’t make it any easier to catch. Image courtesy Clark Wright.

Captain Clark Wright has been fishing for 20 years and runs Wrightstuff Charters out of Sarasota, Florida. But before June 5, he had never seen a piebald tarpon before. On that day, he helped George Seibel bring in a bright orange-spotted creature that looked more like a koi fish than a tarpon, which are normally silver with green or blue backs.

“The first time I saw the fish jump I could see it had bright orange marks all over its head. I said ‘Man, that’s different,’” Wright told OutdoorHub.

One thing is for certain: nobody Wright knows has ever seen a piebald tarpon, either. Even local biologists were unsure about when the last documented catch or sighting of a piebald was. Wright said that he was told a piebald tarpon had been caught back in the 1930s and is on display in the American Museum of Natural History.

6. Terror from the deep

This fish may look like something out of a horror movie, but experts say it is instead a relatively slow deepwater predator called the lancetfish. It was found alive by visitors to Jennette’s Pier in North Carolina. Some anglers and commercial fishermen may be familiar with the species, as lancetfish will sometimes take bait meant for other fish. The fish sports a characteristically large mouth and sharp teeth, which make it seem much more sinister than it is. A number of marine animals prey on the species, including tuna, sharks, opah, and even seals. Pier officials told WGHP that the lancetfish was taken back into deeper waters and released, although it was likely ill if it came so close to shore. Still, this is one fish we’d never want to run into in the dark.

7. The unicorn of the sea

Angler Karen Weaver caught this extraordinary white blue marlin near Costa Rica.
Angler Karen Weaver caught this extraordinary white blue marlin near Costa Rica. Image courtesy Maverick Sportfishing.

It was supposed to be a warm-up day for the Los Suenos Triple Crown Tournament, but the crew and anglers aboard the Spanish Fly encountered what can be described as a nautical myth. More than 20 miles off the coast of Los Suenos, Costa Rica, anglers Bob and Karen Weaver were shocked when they discovered a white blue marlin on the line. The fish, which was caught and released in March, is now being called the “unicorn of the sea.”

The Spanish Fly is a 43-foot charter boat operated by Maverick Sportfishing and usually captained by Daniel Espinoza Jiminez. However, Captain Juan Carlos Fallas Zamora was in charge after Jiminez took the day off. Maverick Sportfishing’s owner Glen Mumford said that when they saw the marlin on the line, everybody on board the ship was in awe.

“The press has gone wild with this while we’re still trying to clarify if it is an albino, but we’re not there yet,” said Mumford.

Albino or not, the fish is a once-in-a-lifetime catch.

Have you pulled up anything strange this year? Share it with us!

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