thumbtack snailfish.jpeg

A thumbtack snailfish caught by Rob Gensorek earlier this week.

Howdy everyone!

At the time of this writing, it’s Day Two of my month-of-December-slacking-off-and-not-working extravaganza. Mind you, like I’ve been saying all along, if the weather is nice on weekends, we will be open on Fridays and Saturdays (heavy on the if).

Yesterday, I took the day to be by myself and went fishing and beach-combing. I was rewarded with a limit of really nice rockfish, an old barnacle encrusted crab buoy and a ton of cool pictures, including a full rainbow over the beach!

Recreational crabbing is now open in the ocean, and I’m looking forward to reports of buckets full of giant tasty crab. Crabbing in the bay has been slow lately but I’m attributing this to a lot of crabbers putting a lot of pressure on the bay.

In the ocean, rockfish and lingcod angling has been good to excellent with a lot of 20- and 30-pound class lingcod being brought to shore. Surf-perch fishing remains good to very good, with odd days of really lousy fishing. After all, it is fishing and not always catching.

Fishing in the bay remains very good and, on the days when the wind blows and the waves crash on the ocean, it’s a nice alternative. I was out last week on one of my midnight runs to the buoys and was doing pretty well. Good grades of fish, good numbers, and a few snags and lost lures were added to the mix.

On one of my near lure-losing hang ups, I reeled in and, to my surprise, I had a wee little fish of some sort on the end. It was a tiny fish with a tiny mouth that was definitely too small to have eaten the lure. Upon closer inspection, this wiggly, brown, eel-like critter was hooked in its side and had been snagged when I was extricating my lure.

This was a case of wrong place at the wrong time for this fella. I had never seen anything like this thing before and took several pictures before putting it back.

After a ton of searching on the internet, I couldn’t find any answers as to what this thing was, so I went to the “ultimate authority” on all things: Facebook. I posted a picture of my mystery fish and in no time at all, someone identified the critter.

Ross Taylor of McKinleyville, California was the first to crack the mystery and correctly identified my catch as a Thumbtack Snailfish. It turns out that the snailfish family is pretty interesting. One of the deepest living sea animals, it was discovered in 2017 and is a — yep, you guessed it — a snailfish.

Our particular specimen is a lot shallower living as an intertidal species which means he pretty much hangs around the areas of tidal influence in the rocks and such.

The thumbtack version of the snailfish is only one of about 410 identified varieties of these little critters that live from the Arctic to the Antarctic oceans and all points between. Living on small crustaceans and itty bitty worm-like creatures, there is even a species that feeds exclusively on sea-cucumbers.

Not a whole bunch is known about their life-cycle in the wild, but we do know that they are egg layers with one of the northernmost species of snailfish even being a “mouth brooder.” That means they carry and develop their eggs and young in their mouth.

The life span may vary from about a year to 10 years, and they are closely related to the sculpin family.

Full disclosure: When I “released” my specimen, it was still on the hook and it may or may not have resulted in the capture of a delicious three pound black rockfish.

Rob Gensorek is the owner of Basin Tackle ( in the Charleston Marina and can be reached by phone at 541-888-FISH, on Facebook at Basin Tackle Charleston, or email

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