Project at a Glance

Title: Research on the fishery and biology of the hagfish

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Reid, Robert

Contract Number: A800-185

Research Program Area: Ecosystem & Multimedia Effects

Topic Areas: Ecosystem Impacts, Impacts


In order to gain a better understanding of both the fishery and biology of the Pacific hagfish, (Eptatretus stoutii), a one year study was conducted in the Santa Barbara Channel, Pacific hagfish are eel-like fish found in relatively deep water off the coast of North America from Baja California to Southeast Alaska-Males and females grow to approximately equal sizes. The largest male captured during this study was 645 mm (25.4 inches), while the largest female was 595 mm (23.4 inches). The size of both sexes was greatest in samples taken from the shallowest depth fished; 30 fathoms. Males mature at a smaller size than females; all males were mature by 405 mm (15.9 inches) and all females by 495 mm (19.5 inches). There does not appear to be a discrete spawning season for this species in the Santa Barbara Channel. The number of near fully developed eggs carried by females ranged from 5 to 82 with an average of 23. Larger females carried more eggs than smaller females, Overall, catch rates were greatest in depths between 50 and 200 fathoms. No hagfish were ever captured in 300 fathoms. Korean-style traps yielded greater catches when compared with 5 gallon buckets over short time periods (up to 4 hours), but less over longer times (24 hours). We detected no difference in catch rates from traps baited with different types of mackerel, however, increasing the amount of bait increased catches. Genetic analysis of hagfish taken from the Santa Barbara Channel and San Pedro indicates that the composition of their DNA differs enough to allow us to identify each population.

For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753

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