Sea Monsters: Weirdest Fish Ever

Take a look at some different, strange and bizarre sea creatures caught by Sport Fishing readers.
Nightmare from the abyss: This is a giant marine isopod (Bathynmus giantess) and came up from a depth between 3,000 and 5,000 feet, attached to a remotely operated vehicle checking Gulf oil pipelines. These critters are, in fact, the world's largest isopod, a group of crustaceans that includes the little roly-polies that you may find cured up in the sandy soil under your house. Like the roly-poly, they can also roll into a defensive ball, and while they may look a bit nightmarish, they're actually scavengers that clean up rare morsels that fall to the ocean bottom.
Clint Dean of Lookout Mountain, Georgia, foul-hooked this fish while fishing blue water aboard the Fit 'N' Finish south of Port Lucaya Bahamas, and thought it was a piece of metal floating on the surface. Although photos didn't show all the features necessary to positively identify the catch, the crazy-looking fish belongs to the genus Benthodesmus and is likely an elongate frostfish, B. Elongatus. Before this catch, this species hadn't been reported from the Bahamas, but is known from other locations in the eastern and western Atlantic, as well as the Pacific and Indian oceans. They live in the water column just above the seafloor, in depths between approximately 600 and 3,000 feet.
Lionfish like this very large one caught off North Carolina while angler Anthony Ng was bottomfishing, consume nearly every kind of fish and soft invertebrate they can fit into their mouthes. This trait, coupled with a lack of natural population controls in the tropical western Atlantic Ocean, makes them particularly threatening to the ecology of our reefs. They are excellent eating, but one needs to be careful to avoid being pierced by the fishes' venomous spines during cleaning. Some individuals have taken to heating the fishes' fins with a propane torch prior to cleaning them, which renders a stab from a lionfish spine no more painful than stabs from a non-venomous fish.
Joe Loyd of Akutan, Alaska, cut the heck out of his hands while grabbing this banged-up longnose lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox) from the top of a salmon gillnet. "Sharp teeth lined its mouth and extended even to the inside of its gill plates. It had no scales covering its skin, and -- although torn -- the fish's saillike dorsal fin stood about 12 inches high." Southeast Fish Facts expert Ray Waldner, Ph.D., says this species has an ultrahigh dorsal fin, much like that of a sailfish. It grows to 7 1/2 feet long and is found in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in depths to more than 6,000 feet.
Also known as Napoleon wrasse or giant wrasse, this mini example of Cheilinus undulates, the humped Maori wrasse, is the most massive of the wrasses. These fish are found (and considered endangered) throughout coral reefs of the Indo-Pacific region and grow to more than 7 feet and 400 pounds. As the most valuable species in the live-reef-fish trade in Southeast Asia, Asian businessmen will pay more than $70 per pound for these fish (and an additional $250 to eat a plate of Maori wrasse lips for their reputed aphrodisiac properties.) Les Saulibio of Kwajelein Atoll, Marshall Islands, submitted this photo, courtesy of his friend Amy.
Although they've caught several, this juvenile billfish's identity stumped Linda Wilson and her husband, Chuck, who own the Kona charter boat Fire Hatt. Says Julian Pepperell, a leading Pacific billfish expert based in Australia, "It's either a shortfall spearfish or a [juvenile] blue, with some sort of deformity to the bill. It's not a sail since its dorsal would be much higher and more parabolic in shape." Pepperell also notes its head is too small to be a black, dorsal too short up front to be a striped.
Bob Sinclair of Virginia Beach, Virginia, caught this tattler (Serranus phoebe) in 240 feet of water out of Hatteras, North Carolina, on a piece of squid. Until this, southeast Fish Facts expert Ray Waldner, Ph.D., hadn't see any reports of a tattler being caught in North Carolina waters, but they were known to range from South Carolina to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico. Although too small to have any food value, the species is sometimes kept by marine aquariasts.
Growing to around 25 pounds, speckled snapper (Lutjanus rivulatus) -- also known as the blubberlip snapper and blue-spotted sea perch -- are relatively large members of the Lutjanidae family of fish. Michael Elstob, of London, caught this magnificent fish while casting a plug over reef shallows in Bassas Da India, a remote atoll halfway between Madagascar and the African mainland. Their main prey includes bottom-dwelling crustaceans, squid and smaller fish, prey that begets the modus operandi this one used in attacking Elstob's plug.
This rare recreational catch is a barramundi cod (Chromileptes alivelis) caught by John Ashley near Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef north of Cairns, Australia. Definitely a marine grouper (family Serranidae -- called cods in Australia), it's also known as a humpback grouper or panther grouper and is the only member of its genus. They grow to more than 28 inches long and are naturally rare in the wild but are reputed to excellent table fish, commanding the highest prices in the live-fish trade.
Red gurnards (Chelidnichthys kumu) like this specimen caught by Steve Wozniak in Botany Bay near Sydney, Australia, can also be encountered in New Zealand and South Africa and reach around 2 feet long. Their outsized and sometimes vibrantly colored pectoral fins, accompanied by two or three free, finger-like pectoral fin rays on each side, qualify as the most striking feature of members of this group of bottom-dwelling fishes that includes gurnards and sea robins. They usually move slowly over the bottom using their free pectoral fin rays for propulsion, but capture prey with swift bursts of speed.
Tom "AK Hooker" Gervais and his girlfriend caught several of these longbow leatherjacket (Oligoplites altus) on live baits and plastic swimbaits in the species' primo habitat, the quiet waters of estuaries and mangrove forests of the Pacific coast of Panama. Although these fish are relatively small (up to about 22 inches), they are spunky, and on light tackle they will run you up and down a lagoon.

dory

UGLIEST FISH
Dory fish are painful to look at, but are a popular food fish--better buy fillets.

batfish

Batfishes have broad, flat heads and slim bodies and are covered with hard lumps and spines.

goblin

Gobblin' sharks are rarely seen alive. The latest specimen was caught off the coast of Japan and is on display in Tokyo Sea Life Park.

synodus

The Diamond Lizardfish lives among the coral reefs off Hawaii and Australia.

dogtooth

Dog-toothed characins have a problem with teeth it seems. The problem appears to be they borrowed them from a sabre-toothed tiger, and despite the fact they don't really fit, and they haven't given them back

firefly squid

A luminescent deep-sea squid, indigenous to northern Japan. Females carrying fertilized eggs come inshore each spring by the hundreds of millions, even a billion, to lay eggs in Toyama Bay (max. depth, 1200 m) and die, thereupon completing a 1-year life cycle.

frilled

The frilled shark is easily mistaken as a sea serpant. Its means of locomotion is movement of its eel-like body.

lamprey

An aggressive parasite, the lamprey eel is equipped with a tooth-filled mouth used to attach itself to host fish such as salmon.

fangtooth

Fangtooth fish have the market cornered on the gross factor.
BIG UGLY RECORD FISH
The following girth-challenged fish are all notable world records compiled by the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin (freshwater-fishing.org). David Tilton caught this massive 73-pound, 1-ounce gargantuan bigmouth buffalo in late March, 2004 while fishing Lake Koshkonog in Southern Wisconsin. Tilton caught the huge fish using only 8-pound test line, but it's also the largest of the species on record. Thus Tilton holds the 8-pound test and the all-tackle divisions.
This impressive 103-pound alligator gar was landed by Bobby Green from the Sabine River in mid-April, 1988. It's the 16-pound test world record for the species, caught on bass tackle, with a pistol-grip handle rod, no less.
This Connecticut River, Massachusetts mirror carp was collected by Roger Pyzocha in May, 1994. It's the heaviest such fish taken in the unlimited line class division, as recorded by the Freshwater Hall of Fame, and weighed 29-pounds, 12-ounces.
It takes a heckuva fish to barely fit inside the bed of a full-size pick-up truck. But this 81-pound smallmouth buffalo caught by Dwayne Pavlock from Lake Sam Rayburn, Texas just makes it. Dwayne beat the fish on 20-pound test line for that line class division, in May, 2001. It's the second largest smallmouth buffalo on record, eclipsed only by an 88-pounder.
White amur, or grass carp, do a good job of eating just about every piece of grass in a lake. And this 59-pounder certainly has had his share of water salad. The fish was caught by Lee Dayton from Hannen Lake, Iowa in June, 2002. It's the 17-pound test record for the species.
Kathy Strook is understandably all smiles with her 30-pound line class record Lake Sturgeon. The fish weighed 136-pounds, 4-ounces, and was landed in September, 2001 from Wisconsin's Yellow River.
This 124-pound world record blue catfish was reported to be "about the size of a sixth grader." Caught by Tim Pruitt from the Illinois portion of the Mississippi River, it is a massive beast by any measure.
This incredible record catch lake sturgeon on 6-pound test line was made by young Jason Burch in May, 1995. It came from Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada, and weighed an eye-popping 67-pounds, 15-ounces.
As ugly fish go, this one's a beauty. It's a 32-pound big head carp, the record for 12-pound test line. Caught by Daniel Fisher, it came from West Virginia's portion of the Ohio River in November, 1997.
Michael Eubank holds the 4-pound line record for this 45-pound, 8-ounce oversize bigmouth buffalo. It came from Tennessee's Percy Priest Lake, April, 2006.
Fist-size scales are prominent on this prehistoric-looking 47-pound pound mirror carp, held by Gary Johnson. Taken on 8-pound test line, it's the all-tackle record for the species, caught from a West Virginia farm pond in July, 1998.
This 70-pound Wheeler Reservoir, Alabama blue catfish looks nearly as big as angler Robert Malone. It's the 8-pound line class record, collected in April, 2002.
This unusual 49-pound, 8-ounce pallid sturgeon is the 17-pound test and all-tackle record for the species. Robert Carlson caught it in May, 1984 from North Dakota's Missouri River.
Tracey Tedrick holds the all-tackle and 12-pound line class record for white amur (grass carp) after catching this 78-pound, 12-ounce giant from the Flint River, Georgia in July, 2003.
Roger Pyzocha claims his second Fishing Hall record from Massachusetts' Connecticut River, with this 36-pound, 9-ounce common carp. It was caught in June, 1994.

Our friends at Sport Fishing magazine have compiled photos of some of the ugliest fish on the planet.