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 #38 — Red Irish Lord

Red Irish Lords embody beauty and ugliness in the same being.

Species: Red Irish Lord (Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus)
Location: Off the coast of Brookings-Harbor, OR
Date: September 14, 2011

I began this blog with the first story I ever recorded. That story took place in 2004, and I wrote about it afterwards in a spiral-bound notebook by hand.

My last story from those hand-written journals takes place seven years later, in 2011, and though it wasn’t my last entry, it was the last new species recorded longhand, so this is a little bittersweet.

***

For awhile, every saltwater fishing trip I took resulted in a new species. Those were the days. Everything was new and exciting.

2011 was still firmly in the middle of this time frame, and after landing a few new species from shore, I was stoked when my rod dipped on our charter boat, and a big, ugly creature I’d never seen in person came up writhing on the end of my hook.

I looked again. Yes, it was ugly, but it was also somehow unbelievably beautiful. It’s red-and-umber tones swept flowing, semi-rigid fins, a brilliantly-hued face, and resulted in a species I’d read about and seen pictures of but never actually seen IRL (that’s In Real Life, ya’ll).

Reareange IRL, and you get RIL, or, Red Irish Lord. #Anagrams

Probably some of the most beautiful members of the Cottidae family, Brown, Red, and Yellow Irish Lords are relatively rare in Oregon, but they often travel in groups.

The first one I caught was eating size, and like every sizable saltwater sculpin, it was a guaranteed keeper if legal.

My pleading eyes apparently spoke volumes, and the apparently nonverbal communication master of a deckhand said “That’s definitely a keeper, bro.”

The first RIL took a leadhead jig at the bottom of the “boat rig,” but on the very next drop, I got a very small fish to eat my curlytail grub. It, too, was a RIL IRL.

This tiny RIL IRL was just 5 inches long. What a champ.

The handful of Irish Lords I’ve caught since (Red and Brown) have never been one-offs. Every time, my party and I have always combined for two.

That could be coincidence, but it’s a four-time coincidence now like the Patriots cheating but somehow getting away relatively unscathed.

***

I happened to be fishing with Ben Blanchard at the time, and though he caught no Irish Lords, he did catch more fish than anyone else on the boat, his 25 beating out my 17 for first place.

***

Though I switched from pen to programs in my journaling shortly thereafter, I continued keeping records — records that enable me to keep bloggging about my #SpeciesQuest and sharing that quest with anyone who won’t throw me off a cliff if I can’t calculate wingspeed velocities and such.

#SpeciesQuest #CaughtOvgard

Read the next entry in #SpeciesQuest here: Species #39 — Deacon Rockfish.