First he thought it was a piece of plastic floating near the shoreline. When he got closer, 73-year-old Kurt Ove Eriksson realized the 12-foot serpent-like object was a rare creature from the depths of the ocean.
Marine biologists later determined Eriksson had found a Giant Oarfish — the world's largest bony fish — last seen in Swedish waters about 130 years ago.
"It was very long and shiny," Eriksson told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "It also had whiskers, even though it looked like they had been broken off. And a strange light-pink dorsal fin."
A retired engineer and avid fisherman, Eriksson made the unusual discovery Saturday on his way to his boathouse in Bovallstrand, on Sweden's west coast.
"I've been fishing around here since 1957 and I've never seen anything like it," he said. "But I've seen enough fish to know that it was a deep-water fish."
Eriksson handed over the dead fish to The House of the Sea, an aquarium in the nearby town of Lysekil, where marine expert Roger Jansson said it's being kept pending a decision on what to do with it.
Jansson said the Giant Oarfish can grow up to 36 feet, and is believed to live in deep waters. He said the last recorded discovery in Sweden was in 1879.
Sightings of the fish are believed to have inspired tales of sea serpents.