A surprising number of lesser-known fish have crazy, unlikely names. If you take a deep dive into the International Game Fish Association list of world-record game fishes you’ll stumble on true head-scratchers — some fish names sound flat-out ridiculous. It’s hard to resist sharing these with other, inquisitive anglers, so in the last installment, we looked at the pink happy and Darwin’s slimehead. Here are a couple more with oddball names.
What’s important to understand is that we’re talking about common names that are official and recognized in the scientific community. Every fish has one such name. For example, Coryphaena hippurus is a dolphinfish. But dolphinfish are called many different nicknames, including dolphin, mahi, mahi-mahi, dorado, and even “dodos” (anglers in SoCal tend to abbreviate fish names by eliminating a syllable or two). Then, dolphin also have nicknames for different sizes, including peanuts, schoolies, slammers, plus others. The goofy names below aren’t just a local or regional moniker that stuck. These are the species’ actual names.
The Forkbeard Fish
The forkbeard (Phycis phycis) doesn’t look particularly bizarre, but this deepwater dweller — a type of hake, which explains its cod-like appearance — does boast elongated pelvic-fin rays that extend downward from its chin, just behind the gills. Each fin branches near the bottom, hence the “fork,” no doubt offering effective feelers while the fish remains just above the bottom. The forkbeard is found in the Northeast Atlantic, usually in 300 to 2,000 feet, and rarely caught by anglers. It is, however, a popular commercial fish. In the British Isles the species is known as the “sweaty betty.” I am not making that up.
The Slobbering Catfish
I caught one of these and it dribbled all over me! Okay, I did make that up. The slobbering catfish (Brachyplatystoma platynemum) don’t slobber. So how to account for the name? Apparently, local fishermen considered the long, flattened barbels extending from their mouth to be reminiscent of strings of drool. I don’t really see it, but whatever. In any case, these cool cats inhabit the deepest channels of big, fast-flowing rivers in Brazil and in areas of Colombia and Venezuela, where they prey exclusively on smaller fishes. While not evaluated by the IUCN’s list of endangered species, apparently they have been severely overfished commercially.