Exotic fish show up in Kodiak fishing nets the last two weeks

Biologist says he can't conclude incidences of strange fish have increased

Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2005

KODIAK - Visitors are common in Kodiak and lately the island has been getting some with fins.

Fishermen in the last two weeks have brought in Pacific pomfret and several armorheads, plus an exotic variation of something more familiar - an albino pink salmon.

Chaz Glagolich, a charter boat skipper, fished in Chiniak Bay on Aug. 31 with clients from Honolulu. One client, Randy Hiraki, hooked a fish he thought he'd seen before.

"It was absolutely gorgeous," Glagolich said.

They concluded it was a Pacific pompano, a fish native to Southern California. The fish was later determined to be a pomfret. Pacific pomfret range north to the Bering Sea but rarely are caught near land.

Glagolich, who has operated professional fishing charters in Kodiak for 15 years, took the fish to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"We always encourage those guys to bring those things in," said Dennis Gretsch, management biologist. He said he could not conclude that the incidences of strange fish have increased.

A Pacific pompano, the fish generally found in warmer waters, would not have been unprecedented. A seiner brought one in around 1995 or 1996, Gretsch said.

The fishing vessel Prestige pulled in the albino salmon sometime in mid-July off Cape Alitak, said Mark Witteveen, a salmon and herring state research biologist.

Witteveen received the fish from Prestige skipper Markus Abramson, who packed the fish in ice for most of the summer. The fish had some color on the tail and fins and is "certainly strange," Witteveen said.

Albinos in the wild are rare, especially when full-grown. A white salmon is particularly poorly adapted to life in the wild and cannot be expected to live past adolescence.

"You could imagine what a little white fish would look like to a bigger fish or a bird," Witteveen said.

Three armorheads were caught by two fishing boats in Izhuit Bay. One boat brought the fish to Rob Swanson, field station manager with the National Marine Fisheries Service Observer Program. The skipper said it was caught Sept. 1. or August 31.

The fish are native to the southern Pacific and congregate around seamounts near Hawaii and other Pacific islands. According to an American Fisheries Society publication, they are called "armorheads" because their heads are encased in exposed bone.

Swanson said the fish are rare in Alaska waters. The fish to his knowledge has been caught only a dozen times in Alaska waters and never in nearshore waters before Sept. 1.

In the 1960s and '70s there was a commercial fishery for armorheads, Swanson said. Russian and Japanese boats fished armorheads heavily and, according to Swanson's research, the fish is down to 0.1 percent of its original population.

Armorheads now are protected. Juveniles live away from seamounts but adults return to spawn. Fishing boats had little trouble finding them.

"They come back to the same place all the time," Swanson said.

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