A 19-year-old fisherman reeled in a huge surprise when he caught a bizarre-looking creature on a fishing trip off the coast of Norway.
Oscar Lundahl was working as a fishing guide for Nordic Sea Angling in the fall of 2019. On a sea fishing expedition near the island of Andoya in northern Norway, Lundahl was in search of blue halibut, but one fish he reeled in was a rarely caught chimeric creature instead.
Lundahl reeled in a ratfish, or chimaeras monstrosa, a fish whose Latin name derives from a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the tail of a serpent.
“We were looking for blue halibut which is a rare species about five miles off shore,” Lundahl told The Sun. “I had four hooks on one line and felt something quite big on the end of it.”
Lundahl explained that it took him 30 minutes to retrieve the fish from a depth of around 2,600 feet. He reeled in two halibut on two of the hooks, but the third fish took Lundahl completely by surprise. It was the young fisherman’s colleague who identified the marine creature as a ratfish.
“It was pretty amazing,” Lundahl recalled. “I have never seen anything like it before. It just looked weird, a bit dinosaur-like.”
Ratfish are sometimes referred to informally as “ghost sharks,” and the name is no misnomer. According to Science Daily, the ratfish is indeed a relative of the shark. Unlike sharks, however, ratfish lack the iconic predator’s rows of razor-sharp, replaceable teeth, instead possessing three pairs of large, permanent “grinding plates.”
The unusual-looking deep water fish has large bulbous eyes and a comparatively small body. According to FishBase, the ratfish resides almost exclusively in deep water regions and is rarely caught by fishermen.
Fish from the chimaeridae family are largely characterized by short rounded snouts and long tapering tails. Most chimaeras prefer to inhabit depths below 660 feet and can grow up to 4.92 feet in length. They feed mainly on seabed-dwelling invertebrates.
Some short-nosed chimaeras also have a venomous gland on their dorsal spine, potent enough to cause injury to a human being. Fish experts refer to the species as “sluggish,” however.
Hoping to spare the bizarre-looking fish its life, Lundahl took a few photos for posterity and attempted to release the ratfish back into the water. Unfortunately, the fish had already suffered owing to the sudden change in pressure and died shortly thereafter. The industrious fisherman, not wishing for the fish to go to waste, took it home to pan-fry in butter. He later reported that the cooked fish had tasted delicious.
“Despite its ugly appearance it was really tasty,” Lundahl told The Sun. “It is a bit like cod, but tastier.”
The catch was a first for Lundahl, but the ratfish is in fact a very ancient breed. Fossil records indicate that the fish existed in the Lower Jurassic period, approximately 200 million years ago.
In January 2020, another unsuspecting fisherman reeled in an odd-looking catch near Coney Island in New York City. A short video of the catch writhing on the dock with the fishing line still in its mouth was shared on the social media platform TikTok.
As reported by Fox News, the people who caught the sea-dwelling creature had no idea what it was they had caught. The video was viewed more than 15 million times, and viewers’ guesses ranged from “a snake devouring a squirrel” to “a type of stingray.”