Weirdest Fish Caught on Hook and Line | Sport Fishing Magazine

Weirdest Fish Caught on Hook and Line

The world’s top species hunter shares 20 of his strangest catches (out of more than 1,800 species!)

Editors Note:
Many of us have caught a “what-the-heck-is-that?” fish. (Hopefully, we emailed photos of such catches to Sport Fishing for its popular Fish Facts department.)

But some anglers are “species hunters” for whom the number of species they can take in their lifetime becomes a goal in and of itself.

But no species hunter comes close to rivaling Steve Wozniak in his quest. (And, no, this isn’t that Steve Wozniak of Apple fame.)

That’s because in his ongoing, ceaseless, single-minded, globe-trotting crusade to hook and land as many different species as possible, as of late September Wozniak had caught/documented/identified 1,827 species taken in all 50 states and 91 countries.

As dedicated fans of Wozniak’s ongoing blogs, we know he’s pulled in lots of fish variously unusual, striking or downright weird. That led us to ask him to pick out 20 of the weirdest and share them with Sport Fishing enthusiasts. This countdown of the 20 weirdest, with Wozniak's captions, is the result.

20 Giant mudskipper

Giant mudskipper

Singapore, April 2010
Sure, they’re cute, until you see the teeth, which is too late in many cases. These creatures inhabit mud flats throughout Southeast Asia, and yes, they can outrun an adult human. I pray that the video of me proving this never sees the light of day.

Steve Wozniak

Giant mudskipper

Giant mudskipper

Steve Wozniak

Giant mudskipper

Giant mudskipper

Steve Wozniak

Giant mudskipper

Giant mudskipper

Steve Wozniak

19 Sea lamprey

Sea lamprey

Wales, May 2012
What this lacks in beauty it makes up in just plain icky. These primitive, jawless fishes are a parasite that can bore through the side of fish and eat it from the inside out. They are a lot stronger than you think, and can chew through waders. Do not put this in your pants. This specimen actually grabbed a spoon after the lure drifted into a spawning nest and the lamprey apparently picked it up to move it out of there.

Steve Wozniak

Sea lamprey

Sea lamprey

Steve Wozniak

Sea lamprey

Sea lamprey

Steve Wozniak

18 Sarcastic fringehead

Sarcastic fringehead

Moss Landing, California, June 2005
If these reached 100 pounds, they would rule the universe. Luckily, they only reach about six ounces, but are still known to attack divers, and they have one of the coolest fish names ever.

Steve Wozniak

Sarcastic fringehead

Sarcastic fringehead

Steve Wozniak

Sarcastic fringehead

Sarcastic fringehead

Steve Wozniak

17 Velvet Belly Lantern Shark

Velvet Belly Lantern Shark

Vangshylla, Norway, July 2010
Caught from well over 1,000 feet, this tiny shark boasted an impressive set of teeth for its size. Lantern sharks, so called because they actually produce light from organs on their flank, are found in most deep seas. I have caught related species as far afield as Japan.

Steve Wozniak

Velvet Belly Lantern Shark

Velvet Belly Lantern Shark

Steve Wozniak

Velvet Belly Lantern Shark

Velvet Belly Lantern Shark

Steve Wozniak

16 Chimaera (aka spotted ratfish)

Chimaera (aka spotted ratfish)

Ketchikan, Alaska, August 2007
These ancient creatures look like a poorly-planned assembly of parts from other animals (hence the name.) Interestingly, their dorsal spine is venomous, which I found out the hard way.

Steve Wozniak

Chimaera (aka spotted ratfish)

Chimaera (aka spotted ratfish)

Steve Wozniak

Chimaera (aka spotted ratfish)

Chimaera (aka spotted ratfish)

Steve Wozniak

15 Deepbody boarfish

Deepbody boarfish

Kona, Hawaii, March 2017
When you’re fishing deep — more than 1,000 feet in this case — there’s always a chance to get something odd. I was surprised to see this come up, but even more surprised that it somehow managed to get that tiny mouth around a 5/0 circle hook.

Steve Wozniak

Deepbody boarfish

Deepbody boarfish

Steve Wozniak

14 Silver tripodfish

Silver tripodfish

Weipa, Australia, April 2009
There are several species of these spiky little fellows in the Pacific, but this first one I caught, randomly on a sabiki while the rest of the guys were having a beer, was fascinating to me, especially how it posed for photos. Note to anglers – they bite.

Steve Wozniak

Silver tripodfish

Silver tripodfish

Steve Wozniak

Silver tripodfish

Silver tripodfish

Steve Wozniak

13 Frogfish

Frogfish

Kona, Hawaii, March 2018
I had seen these in books, and wasted untold hours looking for one while snorkeling. Improbably, I caught two of them on a floating milk crate about 15 miles offshore. They actually walk around reefs on their pectoral fins, and no, you’re not the only person who thinks they’re cute.

Steve Wozniak

Frogfish

Frogfish

Steve Wozniak

Frogfish

Frogfish

Steve Wozniak

12 Sicklefish

Sicklefish

Singapore, April 2010
These always look like someone stretched the picture too far vertically, but they really are shaped like this. Shrimp feeders found inshore throughout Asia, Sicklefish are a nice fight on light tackle and are reputed to be excellent table fare.

Steve Wozniak

Sicklefish

Sicklefish

Steve Wozniak

11 Wolf herring

Wolf herring

Weipa, Australia, April 2009
I had actually announced that I had a ladyfish on the line, to the amusement of my guide, who knew there were no ladyfish in Weipa. I didn’t see the teeth until I was reaching for the lure. Yes, I screamed.

Steve Wozniak

Wolf herring

Wolf herring

Steve Wozniak

10 Tiera batfish

Tiera batfish

Koh Kut, Thailand, January 2006
I was guessing “angelfish” when I first saw it under the boat, but batfishes are more closely related to the spadefishes found on the U.S. East Coast. Batfish tend to hang around mooring lines and ignore all baits, so I counted myself lucky to get this one.

Steve Wozniak

Swell shark

9 Swell shark

Santa Barbara, California, June 2006
Who knew there was a whole family of sharks that could gulp air or water and inflate like a puffer? This one came up as a surprise catch on a coastal reef, and I can vouch that they are extremely ill-tempered.

Steve Wozniak

Swell shark

Swell shark

Steve Wozniak

8 Spotted unicornfish

Spotted unicornfish

Maldives, January 2017
I had seen these on reefs for years, but the spotted unicornfish in the Maldives were the first ones I could ever get to bite. I have no idea why they have the horn, and am even more confused by several unicornfish species that don’t even have a horn.

Steve Wozniak

7 Port Jackson shark

Port Jackson shark

Port Hacking, Australia, January 2017
This fairly large specimen of a Port Jackson shark came off a reef just south of Sydney. These members of the horn shark family are ideally suited for crushing and devouring mollusks, and while they are not the most active fish I’ve ever caught, I wouldn’t put a finger anywhere near that mouth (unless it wasn’t my finger).

Steve Wozniak

Port Jackson shark

Port Jackson shark

Steve Wozniak

6 Viper moray

Viper moray

Kona, Hawaii, March 2009
Morays in general are frightening, but this species has a particularly visible set of teeth, and a willingness to use them. My wife, Marta, took this photo, all the while saying “Put that thing down, you idiot!”

Steve Wozniak

Viper moray

Viper moray

Steve Wozniak

5 Coffin ray

Coffin ray

Botany Bay, Australia, September 2008
These are both unattractive and dangerous. Basically a squarish lump, these predators can produce 220 volts and have seriously injured swimmers and fishermen. Oddly, this one took a plastic swimbait.

Steve Wozniak

Coffin ray

Coffin ray

Steve Wozniak

4 Escolar

Escolar

Schimizu, Japan, July 2017
Locals call these deepwater dwellers “zombie tuna,” because, well, that’s what they look like. Even more frightening is the fact that, while escolar make delicious sushi, if you eat more than a few ounces, you’ll be in the bathroom the rest of the weekend.

Steve Wozniak

3 Monkfish

Monkfish

Kennebunkport, Maine, September 2005
I really loved eating monkfish, right until I saw one. A surprise catch while jigging for big cod, it came up with its mouth open and felt like something much, much bigger. Note the second set of teeth in the back of the throat – this is something straight out of the Alien movie series.

Steve Wozniak

Monkfish

Monkfish

Steve Wozniak

Monkfish

Monkfish

Steve Wozniak

2 Spotted wobbegong

Spotted wobbegong

Port Hacking, Australia, April 2009
A bad combination of terrifying and large. Getting this into and out of a boat was a battle I don’t care to repeat — it wasn’t clear for some time who would win. This is perhaps the best camouflage job I have ever seen in a fish, and I am grateful that they do not live shallow enough to be stepped on, because that could change my shoe size in an instant.

Steve Wozniak

Spotted wobbegong

Spotted wobbegong

Steve Wozniak

Spotted wobbegong

Spotted wobbegong

Steve Wozniak

1 Gorgeous swallowtail

Gorgeous swallowtail

Watamu, Kenya, January 2018
I cannot emphasize how much my head exploded when I saw this thing surface. The guide had tried to explain the gorgeous swallowtail concept to me, but I simply did not understand that anything in the Anthiadae family got anywhere near this big. A combination of weird and gorgeous, this has to be my top strange catch to date.

Steve Wozniak

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