The fish below was found in the mouth of a Lingcod recently and created quite a stir on social media when the photos by Rugged Point Lodge were shared on social media. What species of fish was this?
I did NOT know the ID of this fish but thankfully Andy Lamb shared his knowledge that this was a juvenile Ragfish. One of the remarkable things about this species is that it is really limp, hence RAGfish
Ragfish are Icosteus aenigmaticus and can be 2.13 meter long (7 feet).
From Andy’s “Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest“:
“The Ragfish usually lives in deep water an is termed a bathypelagic species. However, this fish is often found shallower as a juvenile. It’s only an occassional Pacific Northwest visitor, usually during warm weather events . . . A very limp, flappy body supported by a cartilaginous skeleton.”
Andy confirmed that sightings are vrare. Then, another juvenile was sighted thanks to Heather Lord and Nick Felch. This one was live and in the area of Clayoquot Sound.
More about the species from Dr. Milton Love’s “Certainly More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast“:
“Icosteus means “to yield” and “bone” in Greek, referring to the limp body and “aenigmaticus means “puzzling” in Greek. “Ragfish” comes from its Über-limpness . . .
Ranges: Okhotsk Sea and Pacific Coast of Honshu to Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska to Point Loma (Southern California). Larvae have been taken further southwards, off northern most Baja California . . . .
Salient characteristics: Oh so flabby is the ragfish; that’s the character you do wish; but if, by chance, you’re satisfied – not; we’ll tell you other things they have got. The juvies: spotted, scaled, and rounded; have pelvic fins to keep them grounded; adults lack pelvics, spots and scales; are brown and purple, both fems and males.”
With thanks too to Dr. John Ford for relaying the second juvenile Ragfish sighting.