Beautiful, ugly, weird-looking - it's all in the eye of the beholder when it comes to fish. One person may look at a largemouth bass and see nothing strange about it, but someone from across the planet would marvel at its unbalanced huge mouth-to-body-size ratio or odd colorings. So not every fish look strange to everyone, but there are certainly some out there that would make anyone's most weird-looking fish list, no matter where they're from. The seven fish below are some of the weirdest looking fish anglers have ever caught, either by accident or on purpose.
Take a look at that snout! The hogfish is a colorful member of the wrasse family, possessing a protruded snout, ideal for searching out crustaceans buried in the ocean floor. Not only is it weird looking, it also is one of those rare animals that changes sex during its life cycle, beginning out as a female before turning into a male after three years or so. They are found predominantly around Florida and the south Atlantic, reaching lengths of three feet and weighing no more than 25 pounds. The hogfish above is the 21-pound, 15-ounce South Carolina state record.
Perhaps there is no weirder looking fish in the ocean – or more miserable, or uglier - than the blobfish. Making its home off the coast of Australia and Tasmania, the blobfish is a gelatinous mass without the typical swim bladders most other fish possess. To get around, it instead lets the natural ocean current move it along as it floats around just above the ocean floor at depths of over 2500 feet. They grow no more than a foot long, and not all that uncommon an accidental catch for anglers, though they are not at all a species regularly targeted.
A paddlefish’s face and head is the stuff of nightmares, but don’t worry, despite their large mouths, they only feed on tiny zooplankton. Their elongated snout, known as a rostrum, can detect weak electrical fields, aiding them in their search for food. The American paddlefish is one of the largest freshwater fish in North America, capable of reaching five feet in length and weigh over 100 pounds. Found in many river systems across central U.S., the paddlefish is unique for gamefish as they are not taken by conventional rod-and-reel approach. Instead, bowfishing, spear, and snagging are the primary ways to catch a paddlefish.
These odd-looking fish hold the distinction as being the heaviest bony fish in the world, capable of weighing well over 2,000 pounds. Their shape, however, is what truly sets them apart. They have a flattened body laterally, looking oval-shaped when seen head on, but as flat as paper from the side. An oversized dorsal and anal fin, combined with a long body, make it appear that the fish has been cut off from the back as they lack a lengthy tail fin of any kind. They can be found in temperate and tropical waters of every ocean in the world.
This prehistoric-looking fish is a popular target for anglers, especially in south central U.S. They can grow over eight feet in length and weigh over 300 pounds, and put up an excellent fight, whether by rod-and-reel or by bowfishing. The alligator gar is so named because of their mouth, which resemble the elongated snout and teeth of the large reptile. Not only are they a worthy foe for anglers and bowfishers, they are a tough fish in general, as they can survive outside of water for upwards of two hours. Their flesh is considered a delicacy in the U.S.
The needlefish looks like a kind of gar, but they are an ocean-going fish that are typically smaller, rarely reaching a few feet in length. But don’t let its size fool you: if you were to think alligator gar has caused more deaths then a needlefish, you would be wrong. Needlefish can make jumps out of the water at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour, and if you’re standing in the wrong place and time, you could be accidentally speared by them. There have been two recorded deaths caused by needlefish, both as a result of a leaping needlefish – one through the eye, and another through the heart.
The Atlantic Scombrops - commonly called ‘gnomefish’ - looks like someone who just saw something incredibly surprising, and didn’t like it. Its huge eyes and not-so-flattering colors may make you think it wouldn’t be very tasty, but gnomefish actually make a great meal. Anglers mostly fish for them between Florida and the Bahamas, in waters hundreds of feet deep.
You know you’re a weird-looking fish if a popular nickname for you is “vampirefish.” The two long fangs on its lower jaw make it look like one of those fish found in the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean, but they are actually native to the Amazon Basin and Orinoco River in Venezuela. Those fangs can grow to be 4-6 inches long, pretty big for a fish that rarely grow much bigger than a foot. What do they use the big teeth for? Well if one of your primary targets is a piranha, another Amazon fish famous for its teeth, you'd do thankful to have some long, sharp teeth too.
Also called a suckermouth catfish, plecostomus (or pleco for short) are large algae and dead fish eaters native to the tropical freshwaters of Central and South America. They are occasionally seen in the southern U.S., but they are considered a harmful invasive species. The term plecostomus means “folded mouth,” a fitting name for a fish that literally has a mouth that folds downwards, perfect for sucking down food along the surface of rocks and other structures. They can grow to be a couple feet in length, and are known to be rather territorial.
Behold the legendary sea serpent, a fish so rarely seen we hardly know its distribution or population. Usually when oarfish are spotted, they are coming up to the surface on the verge of death. However, there have been reports of people accidentally catching an oarfish trying to fish for something else - the most recent example being a 40-year-old woman catching an 11-footer off the coast of England in 2003. These fish can grow much bigger than that, though, the largest a recorded length of 56 feet! And you thought marlins got big.
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