Species #69 — Brown Irish Lord

In all my years fishing the Oregon Coast, I’d never once seen nor heard of a Brown Irish Lord caught. Then my brother Gabe and I each caught one the same day.

Species: Brown Irish Lord (Hemilepidotus spinosus)
Location: Yaquina Bay, Newport, OR
Date: July 22, 2015

This fish frustrates me for a number of reasons.

After returning home from my trip to Washington D.C., I landed in Portland, and my brother Gabe picked me up. I stayed with him in Corvallis and convinced him to come fishing with me in Newport one day.

We fished from the jetty, something that is miserable on all but the nicest days, and we quickly caught fish. I hooked up on the first fish and reeled in what I thought was a Cabezon.

It was dark and didn’t quite look like the Cabezon I was used to catching, but marine sculpin misidentification was one of my specialties at the time, so I kept that tradition going.

Here was (arguably) the shortest-lived All-Tackle World Record of all time: my Brown Irish Lord. It’s barely visible here, but note the notch behind the third dorsal spine and the deep notch between the first and second dorsal fin? Yeah, that, along with the nostril flaps later helped me identify it.

This fish had disturbing, forgein organs in its throat that could only be described as alien, insectoid crushing arms that must have worked like a gizzard. They kept writhing and pulverizing against each other, and it really creeped me out.

I didn’t remember Cabezon having those.

Were the fish a Cabezon, as I assumed, it was too small to keep anyway. Cabezon have to be a minimum of 16 inches long.

So after a few measurements (13 1/4″ long and 1.25 pounds), I let it go.

This fish was really cool, so we took a few pictures.

Little did I know, I’d just released what would’ve been an IGFA All-Tackle World Record Brown Irish Lord. Phenomenal.

I don’t too bad, though, because Gabe caught a bigger one less than 15 minutes later.

His was larger than mine, so my world record was shattered in under 20 minutes. His would’ve been a world record still standing today had I identified it correctly.

Eff.

My brother, Gabe Ovgard, posing with the Brown Irish Lord he caught that would be the current IGFA All-Tackle World Record had I identified it correctly at the time.

Again, we assumed it was a Cabezon, and his was over the 16-inch threshhold, but just barely. Since I love Cabezon meat, we kept it and cooked it later that night.

It took me years to identify this fish, but with the help of Coastal Fish Identification: Alaska to California, a book recommended to me on Twitter by Kelsey Adkisson of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Division, I finally got my ID.

I know for a fact my fish was a Brown Irish Lord. Gabe’s could’ve been a Red Irish Lord, and the biologists I’ve asked have been split on that one. So maybe, just maybe, I do still have that (unofficial) world record.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #70 — Common Carp.

Species #32 — Cabezon

Cabezon are both ugly and beautiful. The massive, over-sized fins, widely variable color palette, and aggressive nature make them great quarry.

Species: Cabezon (Scorpaenichthys marmoratus)
Location: Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, CA
Date: March 24, 2010

During college, trips to the coast were a somewhat regular occurrence for Ben Blanchard and myself. But when our other friend Christopher Puckett decided to go as well, we were pleasantly surprised.

Christopher is a good friend, but he was never really the outdoorsy type. Usually, the three of us would play video games or board games, joke around, or have deep discussions, but we didn’t really do a lot of fishing together.

We’d all started in the same class in school, but Christopher graduated a year early. So for his junior year and Ben and my sophomore year Spring Break trip, we piled into my car and drove down to California, where it would be warm. Or so we told ourselves.

***

The San Francisco Bay, however, is not warm in March. It’s warmer than Oregon but only just.

We spent the first night in San Rafael, a city on the north end of the Bay, in a fleabag motel. The only reason we weren’t robbed blind is because my car was so unimpressive.

Would-be thieves thought: “Yikes. This guy needs it more than we do.”

The next morning, our charter for Striped Bass and White Sturgeon was a flop. Jim Cox Sportfishing was the name of the boat, and despite the guide and the three of us fishing, we only managed only one striper, and it was Christopher who caught it.

Now apart from our Biology Trip as freshman in high school where we caught a bunch of bottomfish and the one time he went trout fishing with at Spencer Creek, this was his only fish. The 27-inch striper was nearly 10 pounds. Not bad for maybe his tenth fish.

He also caught a stingray pushing 20 pounds, and Ben caught a respectable Starry Flounder.

I was skunked. Not the best way to drop $180 for a guy who, at the time, only made about $5000 per year.

***

We went to a nice seafood dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf then drove to Santa Cruz. I really wanted to catch a fish, so we headed to the Santa Cruz Municipal Pier.

Sure enough, I caught a fish. I setup the rod, and when I went to the bathroom, I came back to see Ben reeling in a White Croaker.

It wasn’t long before I started catching fish, too. That night I caught three small sculpins, and everyone else fishing on the pier kept calling them “Bullheads,” so I thought they were Pacific Staghorn Sculpins. The Internet existed, but I didn’t have a laptop and Christopher’s iPhone 1 was reserved solely for navigation, so I just went on in ignorance.

***
It wasn’t until I got home that I compared pictures and realized they’d been Cabezon.

#CaughtOvgard #SpeciesQuest

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #33 — Cabezon.