Sometimes life becomes so busy that it feels like a contra dance where one thing follows another just like the dancers in a line. It seems like fall is a time in Kodiak where many people are engaged in these dances, juggling many different tasks and taking care of work, play and volunteer business. As I am thinking about the last two weeks searching for something that would be of interest for an article, many serious global and local topics come to mind. However, today I do not feel like writing about big issues. As Halloween is around the corner, I have just the fish to fit the mood.
One of my students told me last weekend about two fish that were the highlight of his summer’s fishing work. They stood out not for their size or taste but rather for their uglyness. His father, an old-time native fisherman, had no name for these two uglies, so my student had to go online to find out what they were.
The first was a monkeyface eel, or more precisely called a monkeyface prickleback. According to Wikipedia it is native to coastal waters from Mexico to Oregon. However, an Alaskan fisheries observer to whom I talked about it today was not only familiar with this peculiar fish but knew it to live happily in Alaskan territory as well.
As its name suggests, the monkeyface eel is long and eel-like with a funny flat face. Its mouth is huge and looks like the snout on a bull dog. It also has a kind of ridge in the middle of its face that looks like an ugly nose and it has large pectoral fins that could be interpreted as big earlobes. It prefers shallow water, where it feeds on green and red algae and it is sometimes caught by sports fishermen on hook and line. Its flesh is white and delicious and its bones have been found in middens of Native people from over a thousand years ago. The fish can live up to 18 years and grow to an impressive 2.4 feet in length.
Unlike the monkeyface eel, the blob sculpin is a fish usually found in deep water. I think it has its name from its good looks, but it could also describe its behavior, which is mostly to sit there like, well, a blob. The blob supposedly comes into action if an unsuspecting crab or sea urchin tries to move past, but for the most part it preserves energy by moving little. As a deep sea fish it lives in the cold, grows slowly and can get rather old. The blob sculpin is similar to the Australian blobfish (but not the same species), which has the dubious honor of first place in the ugliest animal contest. This may be due to its bloblike shape, its pale and bloated complexion or perhaps its bulbous nose and beady eyes, not to mention the large, downturned curve of its mouth.
How amazing it would be to take a Halloween ride through the depths of the ocean haunted by the cutest ugly monsters with big noses and glowing skin!