Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Newportal Blog

A gateway to oceanographic adventures from the Newport Line and beyond

Blog on ocean conditions along the Newport Line and the northern CA Current.

Frosti Fish: The Strange and Unusual

By Cheryl Morgan
June 29, 2015

Posted from the FV Frosti, somewhere off the coast of the Pacific Northwest.  Watching the trawl come in is like the anticipation of opening a Christmas gift.  What could be in there, how many, how big, have we ever caught any of them in the net.   We always hope for some juvenile salmon since that is the main point of the survey but we also like to see something different, strange, or unusual to spice things up.  So, here is a sampling of some of our more interesting species, a number of which we only saw in one or two tows; most are pretty rare.

The Wolf Eel. What is a fish that looks like fettucine with a head (wait, do not eat that, it is not pasta) and that should be wrapped around a rock on the bottom doing hundreds of feet above the bottom in the water column.  Go figure.  We caught a number of these fish throughout the survey but all were juveniles as the adults can get up to 6 feet long. 



Ragfish. We were blessed to catch this juvenile. Adults can get up to several feet long.  They can be found from the surface to the bottom, nearly a mile deep.  This one gets our vote for one of the weirder looking fish of the cruise.



Pacific Saury. A barracuda looking fish that we often catch in much larger sizes.  But, no one can recall catching any this small and cute.  They look like fully formed adults that need to do a lot of growing.


Flatfishes. We caught several large flatfishes several -hundred feet off the bottom.  What is a fish that lives on the bottom, one side down, doing in the water column?  Perhaps they are lost, could not find the bottom or they are chasing some dinner.  Most strange, however, was the catch of nearly 3,330 Pacific sanddabs (19 baskets in the photo) 300 feet off the bottom in ONE trawl.  That was a first for even the fishing crew. 



Pompano. We have periodically caught some of these silvery fish in the NW, but they seem to show up in greater abundance this far north when conditions are warm.  Other surveys along the coast have also been reporting these fish.





Blue Shark. Not technically a catch since it got kicked out of the net by our marine mammal excluder device, but we saw it on our video camera (as well as 10 others).  We do occasionally catch blue sharks in a survey.  There was also a big Thresher shark that we estimated at 10 feet long that also got kicked out of the net by our Excluder.




American shad. Hundreds of thousands of these critters enter the Columbia River.  And we catch the juveniles occasionally at sea.  But no one can recall catching adult sized shad in our surface trawls.  By the way, they are introduced fish from the East Coast that are quite abundant in the Columbia and Sacramento Rivers.




Jack Mackerel. We see these Jack Mackeral in some years, especially warm ocean years when they are not uncommon but are adults.  These are juveniles.  We only caught them in three of our forty five tows.




Red Octopus. This is a small, juvenile octopus that is more commonly found among the rocks on the bottom.   Another creature that is a long way from home. 




Swordtail Squid. This denizen of the deep was caught in a zooplankton tow.  The only thing we know about this creature is that it is a very deep sea squid and one of the crew has a T Shirt with a picture of one on it. 


Tagged: Salmon Survey

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