Record rockfish may also be the oldest

SITKA, Alaska — A record-breaking rockfish was hauled in near Sitka last month.

Henry Liebman reeled in the 39.08-pound shortraker, breaking the old record of 38.69 pounds for a shortraker caught on sportfishing gear.

The age of the fish hasn’t yet been determined, but that too might be a record, a fishery expert said.

Liebman, an insurance adjustor who works in Seattle, said he frequently visits Sitka to charter fish, so he knew that he had a large fish on when the shortraker struck.

“I knew it was abnormally big (but I) didn’t know it was a record until on the way back we looked in the Alaska guide book that was on the boat,” Liebman said.

A fishery biologist said this shortraker may have been patrolling Sitka’s coast since the time of Alexander Baranov.

Troy Tydingco, Sitka area manager for the state Department of Fish and Game, certified Liebman’s catch, and said this fish might be in the neighborhood of 200 years old.

“The rougheye is the oldest-aged fish at 205,” Tydingco said. He said the longevity record for shortrakers, which are often confused with rougheyes, is 175 years. But that record fish, he said “was quite a bit smaller than the one Henry caught.”

“That fish was 32 and a half inches long, where Henry’s was almost 41 inches, so his could be substantially older.”

Samples of the fish have been sent to a lab in Juneau where the actual age of Liebman’s fish will be determined.

Rockfish live at depths that range between 84 feet all the way down to almost 4,000 feet. Liebman said he was fishing at a depth of around 900 feet, 10 miles out when his giant shortraker took his bait.

The fish went back to Washington with Liebman, who plans to have it mounted.

He also took home a big fish story that he said he’s already been “getting a lot of mileage” out of.

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