200-year-old Rockfish: Alaska Fish Could Be Oldest Creature Ever Caught

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Thursday, 04 Jul 2013 04:35 PM

By Ken Mandel

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A 200-year-old rockfish? Experts believe a Seattle insurance adjuster hauled in just that on a fishing trip in Alaska, and it could be the oldest fish ever found.

Henry Liebman reeled in the 39.09-pound rockfish on June 21 from a depth of about 900 feet. At 41 inches, it's the longest rockfish ever caught by more than eight inches, and could be the oldest, according to The Daily Sitka Sentinel.

"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 Sentinel of the 200-year-old catch.

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Liebman transported the fish to Seattle and plans to have the geriatric creature mounted. A sample was sent to a lab in Juneau, Alaska, to help determine the age, the paper said. Scientists can estimate that by studying growth rings contained in an ear bone, similar to the age rings found in a tree trunk.

Supposedly born during the James Madison Administration, the rockfish predates the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia. It was hatched 10 years after the Louisiana Purchase, and 47 years after the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

While it may be the oldest, the fish is far from the largest ever caught. Fisherman Ken Fraser holds that record after snaring a 1,496-pound Bluefin tuna in 1979.

Rockfish live at depths ranging between 84 feet to nearly 4,000 feet. Liebman told the Sentinel he was fishing 10 miles out.

Troy Tydingco of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game told the Sentinel that the oldest record for the shortraker rockfish — scientifically known as the Sebastes borealis — is 175 years.

"That fish was 32-and-a-half inches long, where Henry's was almost 41 inches, so his could be substantially older," Tydingco told the paper.

While Liebman has achieved some notoriety as a result of his prize, some in the Twitter universe didn't share the same excitement about the death of such an old animal.

"So a fisherman caught a 200 year old fish," tweeted Becci Parker. "It managed to last for 200 years & they're all happy about catching it. *sigh*"

However once the rockfish was secured, throwing it back wasn't a good option, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"Rockfish caught in deep water often sustain injuries," as a result of the decompression that happens when fish are quickly elevated to the surface, the ADFG says on its website. With Liebman being at a depth of 900 feet, "because of high release mortality, intentional catch-and-release fishing is greatly discouraged, particularly in depths of 60 feet or greater."

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Related stories:

Giant Shark: 1300 Pound Mako Caught Off California a Record

Oarfish, Giant Deep-Sea Creature, Caught on Video

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