Saltwater – Elusive (and slightly scary) deep-water fish washes up on SoCal beach


ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA – Surf angler Gary Garthwaite was walking Bolsa Chica beach as usual, casting for surf perch, when he noticed something odd washed up the beach and in distress. “It was still alive but clearly damaged” Gary told WON. “I tried to revive it, without success…”

NOT A SURF PERCH – Surf angler Gary Garthwaite came across this rogue lancet fish during a surf fishing session in Southern California. Picture credit: Gary Garthwaite / WON.

The strange-looking critter in question turned out to be rare longnose lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox) With its usual range consisting of deep water in the 100 to 2000-meter bracket, this wasn’t the standard fare found on Orange County beaches. A quick ID check with a WON staffer confirmed that it was indeed a rare visitor to the beach.

But, every year or two, one of these deep water predators washes up, attracting headlines such as Cannibal Fish with Fangs Washes up on California Beach or Scary Fanged Cannibal Lancetfish Washes Up Alive. The most recent discovery appears to be the first found in the last year or so.

TOOTHY CRITTER – The lancet fish that washed up on Bolsa Chica State Beach, Orange County. Picture credit: Gary Garthwaite / WON.

Sadly, the lancetfish didn’t make it back alive and was washed away by big set of waves shortly after perishing on the beach – a common occurrence for these deep-water predators. Lancetfish can grow up to 6.6-feet long and about 20 pounds in weight, and they’re found in almost every ocean worldwide.


Little is known about their reproductive behavior or lifecycle other than the fact that – as you may have guessed by the headlines – they have big teeth and like to eat each other.

LANCET FISH – A not-so-common sight on SoCal beaches. File photo.

This report appears in the March 17, 2023 print edition of Western Outdoor News. To get early access to every info and feature-packed issue of the West Coast’s biggest outdoor sporting newspaper, click here.