Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Thursday, July 11, 2019
Stars and Stripes - a miracle maker

Oarfish sighting and release at East Cape
“The Thompson brothers – Noah, 24 and Jacob, 17 – from Austin, Texas, found, revived and released this juvenile oarfish off the lighthouse. It’s the first live oarfish release I know of and one of the best oarfish photos I’ve seen,” John Ireland, owner of Rancho Leonero Resort at East Cape acknowledged.

“IT'S THE FIRST live oarfish release I know of and one of the best oarfish photos I’ve seen,” said John Ireland of Rancho Leonero.

This was a juvenile, only 8-feet long, but very light, weighing only five to 10 pounds, according to Jacob.

The first mention of the oarfish was in 1772 as a Regalecus glesne, according to Peter Ascanius, a Norwegian biologist, who had run across one not far from Norway's second largest city of Bergen.

Since then, the giant fish has been in the upper areas of the open ocean, following its food source; it is most prevalent in the tropics to middle latitudes and found from the surface down to 3,300 feet.

Its shape is ribbon-like, with a dorsal fin along its entire length from between its eyes to the tip of its tail. The fin rays are soft and can number 400 or more. At the head, the rays form a distinctive red crest. Its pectoral and pelvic fins are nearly adjacent. Its head is small with the protruded jaw; it has 40 to 58-gill rakers and no teeth.

The skin of the oarfish is scaleless, but covered with tubercles or small knobby nodules. The skin color is silver with streaks, spots or splotches of black or dark gray, and a bluish or brownish tinge on the head. Its fins, including its long dorsal fin and crest, are red, probably resulting from its diet.

It’s the world's longest bony fish, reaching a recorded length of 36 feet. The maximum recorded weight of a giant oarfish is 600 pounds. Unconfirmed specimens of up to 56 feet have been reported, although the average size is about 10 feet.

For whatever reason, oarfish seem to show up on Baja beaches every so often. There is a specimen nearly 20-feet long that has been hanging in the dining room at Buena Vista Beach Resort Hotel for decades.

“This oarfish washed up on the shore many years ago,” acknowledged Axel Valdez, Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort manager. “My father had it mounted and hung it on the dining room wall.”

In 1996, a United States naval instructor discovered one that measured 21 feet on Silver Strand Beach in San Diego that apparently had died and washed ashore.

Because they are rarely seen, and because of their size, their elongated bodies and their appearance, many marine biologists believe the giant oarfish may be responsible for reports of sea serpent sightings over the years.

An 18-foot-long oarfish carcass was discovered Oct. 13, 2013 and was considered a once-in-a-lifetime event for beach goers on Catalina Island off Southern California at that time. That event was followed five days later by a second 14-foot-long oarfish, found on a beach in San Diego County. Then in August 2015, on Pebbly Beach near Avalon on Catalina Island, a 15.5-foot oarfish was found washed ashore with its tail severed, which the fish tend to do to shed weight and save energy. Because of its girth, it was guessed that it had likely been 24-feet long.

On September 1, 2007, in Isla San Marcos, B.C.S. Mexico, two oarfish were discovered swimming side by side along the beach.

The giant oarfish have been attributed with being an indicator of an “impending” or “recently occurring” earthquake and are sometimes known as "earthquake fish" because they are believed to appear before and after an earthquake.

They are known in Japan as “ryugu,” or “tsukai,” or "messenger from the sea god's palace," according to the Japan Times. Japanese fishermen discovered dozens of the deep-sea denizens around the time that a powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile in March, 2010.

Shortly before the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, about 20 oarfish stranded themselves on beaches in the area, according to Mark Benfield, a researcher at Louisiana State University.

Kiyoshi Wadatsumi, a specialist in ecological seismology, explained to the Japan Times that there could be a reason for the oarfish’s action. "Deep-sea fish living near the sea bottom are more sensitive to the movements of active faults than those near the surface of the sea."

On October 12, 2012, just after 10 a.m., a crowd of onlookers began to gather at a beach in Cabo San Lucas, BCS Mexico. They weren’t there to take in the tourists – they were looking at a strange sea creature that was making its way ashore. Once ashore, onlookers returned the oarfish to the water, but it didn’t last long. A panga from the Protected Areas Department came and took the dead fish away.

Over the years, there seems to have been many occasions where these unusual creatures have been washed ashore in Baja and many other areas. However, as Ireland observed, “The brothers found and revived the small juvenile oarfish, and in my 40 years here, it’s the first time that has ever happened.”

“The cool thing was that this specimen still had complete coloration. It was absolutely beautiful, one of the most stunning fish I’ve ever seen in terms of the iridescent coloration. It certainly looked like something that lives in thousands of feet of water and never sees the light of day. It was very cool,” Noah described the fish to “For the Win Outdoors.”

Noah added, “It took it a moment to be able to stabilize and hold itself upright. We watched for a couple minutes while it tried to make its way out and then we saw it disappear out towards some deeper water; hopefully, it got a lot more time ahead.

“Without a doubt, it was good to see it at least trying to make it towards deep water,” Noah continued.

The brothers didn’t catch any other fish that day, but that didn’t seem to matter to them at all.

“Understanding that not many people get to see those creatures while they’re still alive was much cooler than any other fish we could’ve caught with a fly rod,” Noah was quoted as saying by “For the Win Outdoors.”

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