JELLY GOURMET

Sport Fishing - - FISH FACTS -

I caught this fish near Sitka, Alaska, in about 270 feet of wa­ter while bot­tom­fish­ing for hal­ibut. I’ve iden­ti­fied it as a prowfish and have sub­mit­ted it to the IGFA to be the first all-tackle record for the species. This one weighed 17.85 pounds and mea­sured 36 inches; I’m won­der­ing how much larger they’re known to get. From my re­search, it seems they eat mostly jel­ly­fish, though this one struck a com­bi­na­tion of her­ring and squid. But I couldn’t de­ter­mine any­thing about prowfish ed­i­bil­ity. What can you tell me about that and their max­i­mum size? Steve Ramp Sitka, Alaska

Good call, Steve. That is in­deed a prowfish, Zaprora silenus. Prowfish range from Ja­pan to the Arc­tic (in the Chukchi Sea) and down to south­ern Cal­i­for­nia, so you were fish­ing in the heart of their ter­ri­tory. They grow to about 40 inches long (yours is al­most max­i­mum size), and the adults live near the bot­tom in depths rang­ing from 33 to at least 2,600 feet. Ju­ve­nile prowfish al­ways seem to hang around jel­ly­fishes; when fright­ened, they swim right up in­side the bell or shel­ter near the ten­ta­cles. Adults live on reefs, usu­ally in caves, so it sounds like you drifted off the sand and over some rocks. As you note, jel­ly­fishes are a ma­jor part of their diet, as are krill, fish lar­vae, and other small plank­tonic crea­tures. Why a big glob of her­ring and squid at­tracted one of th­ese fish is a mys­tery, but maybe it’s like me and rhubarb — I know I hate it, but ev­ery once in a while, I think, Oh, what the

hell? and try some. Lastly, are they good to eat? I can’t find any­one who ac­tu­ally has tried one. How­ever, my as­so­ciate Alexei Orlov in­forms me that prowfish are oc­ca­sion­ally used in surimi by Ja­panese fish­er­men who catch them by ac­ci­dent but says there is no mar­ket for them in Ja­pan. —Mil­ton Love

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