Captain Dale Leverone was fishing aboard his Kona charter boat Sea Strike for giant “grander” blue marlin with his son and first mate Jack when something weird, long, and shiny near the surface caught Dale’s attention. Jack recalls, “I thought it was a car bumper, but then I remembered they don’t float!”
Big Fish Photo Website Bluewaterjon.com), fellow monster fish enthusiast, and frequent visitor to Kona, I’ve befriended the Leverones over the years. Within seconds of seeing the photos I contacted them, eager to learn more.
I could barely contain my excitement when Jack returned my message. I’d lucked out by reaching them while they still had the exceptional find on board. “Jack did you really just find that?” I asked incredulously.
“Ya we just found it. It's still bleeding because a shark bit it's head off.”
“Ok cool! Take a million pics from all angles and send them to me!” I replied.
Along with Opah, Oarfish are one of the oddest looking creatures in the sea, and I dream of one day swimming with one for some amazing underwater photo opportunities. Ironically, Leverone is one of the few people I know who has caught an Opah. Here he is with an opah catch that made big news in Kona in 2005.
To confirm Dale's hunch that the headless creature was indeed an oarfish, I contacted noted Hawaii fishing expert and historian Jim Rizzuto. Jim has written for decades about remarkable catches in Hawaiian waters, as well as a host of highly regarded how-to and historical fishing books and articles. Dale and Jack thought it was an oarfish, and speculated that had its head bitten of by a shark at the surface. They figured that the shark was still nearby and was going to finish its meal, but they had spooked it with their boat when they scooped it up. Here is the photo of the part where the head was taken off, possibly by a predator. Notice the fresh-looking wound.
Jim told me, “Because it was headless, I assume it was attacked and killed by a predator and the body floated to the surface. It might have been hooked on a deep water line of some kind and then discarded by the fisherman who caught it, but that seems unlikely.”
Here is a picture of where the tail would have been on the mystery fish. Notice the cut angle is different than the angle of the laceration near the head.
Had it been attacked by a shark that disabled it first, and waited until it floated up and bled out before planning to gulp it down? Maybe Dale was right, a shark could have been lurking nearby and they interrupted his meal. Mealus Interruptus. Bummer for the shark!Hawaiian ridge scabbardfish, but without the head, it was going to be hard to get a positive ID. They seem to be so rare that the only image I was able to find was this old-school drawing on Wikipedia:
Next I consulted Owyn Snodgrass and James Wraith, fisheries biologists at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Both of them thought it might be a King of Salmon fish- something I’d never heard of before. I researched them (one's pictured below in fairly rotten shape) and they didn’t look similar to the ones I saw on Wikipedia.
For reference, here's a closeup of the Leverone's mystery fish's skin in another picture. Notice the apparent lack of scales.
I was able to find some fish that resembled the Leverone’s mystery fish on Wikipedia, which listed them as “Beltfish” or "Largehead Hairtail" (pictured here in a Tokyo fishmarket) but who knows if they are the same species. For the record I hear belt fish taste exactly like chicken.
Jack's description of the jelly-like flesh matched up with some information I found online when I was researching oarfish, so who knows? Snodgrass offered to submit the photos to people he knew at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in hopes of getting more answers on this fascinating find. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get some answers soon; if I get any more news, I’ll be sure to post it on this blog, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, do you like big fish photos? I happen to be giving away a 16x20" signed, framed photo worth on my Facebook Page.
www.bluewaterjon.com or through his Facebook page.