Monday, April 09, 2007

Otoliths

By now everyone has seen or heard the Associated Press story about the huge mother shortraker rockfish, caught by the trawler Kodiak Enterprise some 2,100 feet down, south of St. Paul Island. Since taking possession of the old mother fish, biologists have measured, photographed, poked and probed. By removing the middle ear bone — called the otolith — the researchers were able to count the growth rings and estimate its age at between 90 and 115 years.


I searched the internet for a picture of the otoliths of this humongus fish to no avail. I would like to see how big they are. The above pictured otoliths were from maybe a 15-20 pound max snapper. (Which are shortraker rockfish.) I call them snapper because thats what they look and taste like. To me they are the chicken of the sea. I like them better than halibut. The above pictured halibut otoliths are from maybe a 60-80 pound flatfish. I always thought it was interesting that the Rockfish otoliths are way bigger than the halibut otoliths compared to size wise of the actual fish.


Another interesting tidbit about Rockfish is since they are caught so deep in the water the pressure from bringing them up to the surface causes their stomach to expand out their mouth and their eyes bulge. This makes for a pretty disgusting looking fish but not the ugliest fish in the deep blue sea by far. Their skin is a bright orange color. Like I said, Rockfish are very tasty, too.


All fish have 2 otoliths. They are for balance and buoyancy. They also make nice earrings when cut out of the fishes head. Salmon have little dainty ones. I'll get a couple this summer and show you. I'll also make some earrings out of the above pictured otoliths.

6 comments:

Riverbrat said...

Wow, that is so cool Fishtaxi. Thanks for writing about this! I look forward to seeing the salmon ones and your earrings.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what a otoliths is, after you commented on someone else's blog.
After all these years of hangin' with fishermen, I never knew.

Heidi

Kiana said...

I remember a lady having our deckhand cut these out of a 300lb halibut her husband caught. I thought they would be much bigger for some reason.

Interesting how jagged the ones from the rockfish are.

FishTaxi said...

Me and a friend would meet the charter boats at the dock when they came in. After the deckhands cleaned the fish we would snag the otoliths. Sure enough a tourist would ask what we were doing then would want their otoliths.

Halibut otoliths are easier to get than the rockfish. FOr the butt you slice the head at an angle and pull them out with tweezers. The rockfish you make a triangle straight down cut at the top of the head then pound it til they pop out. Otherwise they are prone to breakage.

FishTaxi said...

Also to clean we soak them in vinegar. Not too long though as they will dissappear!

sunshine unit said...

aw man i remember making earbone earrings with you. that was delicate work..