A fishing crew working for a Morgan Hill-based seafood company reeled in “the catch of a lifetime” in Moss Landing Harbor when they pulled a brightly colored petrale sole with a rare skin condition onto the boat, according to the company.
The crew was fishing on the F/V Noah’s Ark vessel for Lusamerica Foods—whose headquarters is located on Railroad Avenue in Morgan Hill—on Jan. 24 when they caught the bright yellow-orange fish whose pigment is a “complete anomaly” among groundfish, said Peter Adame, Lusamerica Foods spokesperson.
Petrale sole is a West Coast flatfish that—while popular on dinner tables and in restaurants far and wide—is typically a nondescript brown color, Adame said. Commercial groundfish trawlers off the coast catch thousands of petrale sole every day, but it is unlikely that any have ever looked like the one reeled in Jan. 24.
In a TikTok video posted by Lusamerica, F/V Noah’s Ark crewmember “Big Rick” said it was the first time he had seen a fish like that in his 43 years in the profession.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, ever, and neither has my captain. And we’ve been fishing for over 100 years between us,” Rick said in the video.
Adame did some research and found that this particular fish’s condition is known as Xanthochromism—“an abnormal skin coloration of yellow to orange-gold.” The condition is uncommon in nature.
It is surprising that the yellow-orange sole had survived in the ocean as long as it had, as groundfish need to blend in with their dark surroundings in order to avoid predators, Adame explained.
“It’s very rare to catch a fish with this strange pigmentation as it’s a very odd condition, and even slimmer odds for it to survive the first couple years of life,” Adame said. “You don’t really blend into the brown sea floor when you’re rocking those colors.”
The crew decided to keep the rare specimen, Adame added.
In an industry noted for superstition, Lusamerica and the F/V Noah’s Ark are taking the catch as a “good omen.” Adame said the Jan. 24 expedition was the boat’s first time unloading in Moss Landing, which is located on Monterey Bay about 40 miles southwest of Morgan Hill.
For many years, Moss Landing Harbor did not have any active groundfish trawling vessels before the F/V Noah’s Ark docked on Jan. 24. Groundfish anglers used to be highly active on the West Coast, but the populations of the sought-after species “collapsed” in 2000, Adame said.
“The fish populations bounced back in 2014 thanks to strict management, but many of the fishermen left the area,” Adame added. “Lusamerica’s been investing in the local seafood economy for several years by adding new infrastructure at their dock in Moss Landing and adding a local fish fileting line at their processing facility in Morgan Hill.
“But having a larger fishing vessel like the F/V Noah’s Ark join the Moss Landing fishing community is a milestone for the harbor and larger West Coast groundfish recovery.”
Lusamerica is the owner of the Monterey Bay Seafood brand. The company distributes seafood to businesses throughout the West Coast. In addition to Moss Landing, Lusamerica also works directly with groundfish anglers out of Noyo Harbor in northern California.