Homer angler reels in blue-fleshed fish

a blue fish
A brightly colored rock greenling recently caught by Homer fisherman Joe Chmeleck. (Courtesy Joe Chmeleck)

A fisherman in Homer recently reeled in a rock greenling that has caught the attention of researchers and scientists from around the world. The brightly colored blue fish, which has drawn comparisons to Dr. Seuss’s “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” is more common than one may think.

Joe Chmeleck, owner of The Lodge at Otter Cove, says that this isn’t the first time he’s caught one of these vivid rock greenlings.

“Last year, when I caught one, I was very concerned because I lived in Hawaii for 11 years, and typically with Hawaiian fish, the brighter they are, the more poisonous they are,” he said. “I actually grabbed it with a towel, took a picture of it, and released it because I didn’t know what it was.”

Rock greenling is a common fish in Kachemak Bay that typically has a reddish-brown hue with bright red spots. Although the one Chmeleck caught had a suspicious shade of blue flesh, it’s completely safe to eat. When cooked, the meat turns white. Chmeleck says the fish tastes similar to rainbow trout.

“They’re actually fairly common nearshore fish here in Kachemak Bay, so it’s always neat when you see these fish that you have experience with or know a little bit about and see others getting excited about them,” said Mike Booz, the Lower Cook Inlet sportfish area manager for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “They’re kind of a unique fish, for sure, especially with the blue flesh.”

Booz says that he sees a few of these eye-catching rock greenlings every season when trolling for king salmon. The blue pigment is likely caused by genetic differences within the species. Factors like diet and UV radiation may also contribute.

Since posting his catch to social media, images of the rock greenling have been shared nearly 4,000 times. Chmeleck says he has been contacted by researchers and journalists from around the world about the fish, including a group of scientists in Japan who are interested in studying the blue pigment for medicinal purposes.

“It’s sort of crazy how popular it is,” Chmeleck says. “I see people around town and they sort of chuckle because it’s not that uncommon. People have been catching them for years here, and I just seem to be the one to tell the world about it.”

Chmeleck has gone fishing twice since the initial catch to see if he can reel in any more rock greenlings. So far, he has been unsuccessful.

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