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Angler revives exotic sea creature in rare encounter

For The Win logo For The Win 6/17/2019 David Strege

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A fisherman who had always dreamed of holding an oarfish-an exotic sea creature from the deep-became one of the few people to see and hold an oarfish that was still living, and he possibly even saved its life.

The extremely rare encounter occurred last week on a Mexican beach in Baja's East Cape as Noah Thompson, 24, and Jacob Thompson, 17, were just getting started for a day of fly-fishing.

The brothers from Austin, Tex., were working their way down the beach on quads just north of Rancho Leonero Resort when Jacob spotted something silvery that had just washed ashore.

Noah told USA Today/For The Win Outdoors that his brother "knew exactly what it was and he was thrilled."

"When I was young I'd always seen pictures of these things and dreamed of being able to hold one," Jacob told For The Win Outdoors. "Obviously I couldn't believe it at first. I was running up to this thing. I'd seen orange on him and I just lost it. I turned around and started screaming at my brother to come look at this thing."

File Photo

File Photo
© File Photo

Oarfish, which can grow to 36-feet long, inhabit waters from 660 feet to 3,300 feet and are rarely seen on the surface and if they are, they are usually dead or dying, and much bigger than the one the Thompsons saw.

This one was a juvenile, only 8-feet long but very light, weighing only five to 10 pounds, according to Jacob. And "sure enough he was alive," Jacob told For The Win Outdoors.

Jacob pulled the oarfish into the water and began reviving the sea creature, moving it forward and back to pump water through its gills.

"It took him a moment to be able to stabilize and hold itself upright," Noah said. "We watched it for a couple minutes while it was trying to make its way out and then we actually saw him disappear out towards some deeper water, so hopefully he's got a lot more time ahead of him."

Also on FTW Outdoors: Fisherman nearly let record lake trout get away

John Ireland, owner of Rancho Leonero Resort, told For The Win Outdoors that "they found and revived the small juvenile oarfish; in my 40 years here, it's the first time it's ever happened."

Though Jacob revived the oarfish, it's impossible to say with certainty whether it lived and made it back to its home waters of the deep.

"Without a doubt it was good to see it at least trying to make it towards deep water," Noah said.

"The cool thing was that this specimen still had complete coloration. It was absolutely beautiful, one of the most stunning fish I've ever seen in terms of the iridescent coloration. The coloration was absolutely stunning. It certainly looked like something that lives in thousands of feet of water and never sees the light of day. It was very cool."

a group of people posing for a photo: File Photo © File Photo File Photo

U.S. Navy trainees hold a dead 23-foot giant oarfish that washed ashore in San Diego in 1996. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

The brothers didn't catch any fish that day, but that didn't matter to either brother.

"Understanding that not many people get to see those creatures, while they're still alive, at least, is much cooler than any other fish we could've caught with a fly rod," Noah told For The Win Outdoors.

"I was set for the rest of the trip," Jacob told For The Win Outdoors. "I did not think I was ever going to see one of those in my lifetime."

Yet, now he has held a living one.

Photos of Jacob holding the oarfish courtesy of Noah Thompson. Photo of U.S. Navy trainees holding a dead 23-foot giant oarfish that washed ashore in San Diego courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

h/t to Pete Thomas Outdoors

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