When a group of anglers aboard the 33-foot Contender Salty Duck dropped a bait into 1,500 feet of water in the Mississippi Canyon, they had swordfish on their minds. What came up was nothing like a swordfish.
It was a long brown oilfish that “was extremely aggressive when it hit the surface,” says angler Kini Bowers, “glowing silver and electric blue across its back, with a greenish-gold, glowing eye and an angry set of razor-sharp chompers.”
But wait! There was more for this group of Gulf deep-dropping enthusiasts: “Ensnared in the leader was a smaller oilfish. Not a bad drop: two fish with one hook and bait!”
The larger fish proved a handful once on the gaff, “twisting and biting at everything in its path,” says Bowers.
Back at Cypress Cove Marina in Venice, the group weighed the elongate creature. At 71 pounds, notes Bowers, it tops the Texas record and he could find no record for Louisiana. He adds, “So we assumed we’d caught the unofficial Louisiana state-record oilfish.”
Besides Bowers, anglers/crew on the outing included Joe Tooker, Jordan Ellis and Davis Hardesty, and the boat’s captain, Lane Hensarling.
Oilfish are not rare, found in warm/temperate waters around the world, but are infrequently caught by anglers since they live in considerable depths (though like many deepwater denizens, rise nearer the surface at night). The world record oilfish weighed an ounce shy of 140 pounds, caught off northern New Zealand in 1986. Like escolar, also in the snake mackerel family, oilfish have rich, tasty flesh but indigestible wax esters can cause diarrhea and gastric distress.