A fisherman in Alaska took home a catch for the ages recently when he reeled in a 40-pound shortraker rockfish that experts believe is at least 200 years old.
The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported that Henry Liebman of Seattle was deep-sea fishing off the coast of Alaska on June 21 when he hooked the record-setting shortraker fish from a depth of approximately 900 feet.
“I knew it was abnormally big (but I) didn’t know it was a record until on the way back we looked in the Alaska guide book that was on the boat,” Liebman told the paper.
Shortrakers, which have hues of orange, pink or red on top of their white bodies, are one of the most commonly sought fish in Alaska and can live at depths of more than 2,500 feet.
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.
In 2007, a commercial fisherman caught a similarly sized rockfish that turned out to be 115 years old. Amazingly, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association say that fish was still fertile at the time of its capture. "The belly was large," NOAA researcher Paul Spencer told The Associated Press. "The ovaries were full of developing embryos."
Liebman told the paper he plans to have the fish mounted back home in Seattle, but he did provide the Alaska Department of Fish and Game with a sample so its age could be determined.
Tidingco noted that if the fish is actually as old as believed, it would easily predate the Alaska Purchase in 1867.
Scientists say they still don't fully understand animal longevity. Normally, smaller animals tend to outlive larger ones, though that does not necessarily appear to be true with the rockfish. The oldest known animal on record was a clam believed to have been 400-years-old.