Astonishing Catch: 200-Year-Old Rockfish

Scientist believes that the 39-pound shortraker rockfish had lived for two centuries.

200-Year-Old Rockfish Landed in Alaska

200-Year-Old Rockfish Landed in Alaska

Henry Liebman landed a record-breaking 39-pound shortraker rockfish, but the most amazing part is that the fish is believed to be 200 years old.Courtesy Alaska Department of Fish and Game

A record-breaking rockfish was weighed in near Sitka, Alaska, last week, according to the Sitka Sentinel, but the real story is estimated age of the fish -- around two centuries. That means the fish began life in 1813 when James Madison was the U.S. president, decades prior to the Civil War and before Alaska was even a U.S. territory.

Henry Liebman, an insurance adjustor who works in Seattle, said he frequently visits Sitka to charter fish, so he knew that he had a large fish on when the shortraker rockfish bit. "I knew it was abnormally big (but I) didn't know it was a record until we were on the way back and looked in the Alaska guide book that was on the boat," Liebman said.

Troy Tidingco, Sitka area manager for the state Department of Fish and Game, certified Liebman's catch, and said this fish might be in the neighborhood of 200 years old, according to the report. "The rougheye rockfish is the oldest-aged fish at 205," Tydingco said. He said the longevity record for shortrakers, which are often confused with rougheyes, is 175 years. But that record fish, he said "was quite a bit smaller than the one Henry caught.

Samples of the fish have been sent to a lab in Juneau where the actual age of Liebman’s fish will be determined. Rockfish live at depths down to almost 4,000 feet. Liebman said he was fishing at a depth of around 900 feet, 10 miles out when his giant shortraker took his bait.

The fish went back to Washington with Liebman, who plans to have it mounted.