MONKFISH; ANGLER; ALLMOUTH; MOLLIGUT; FISHING FROG … The first spine bears an irregular leaflike flap of skin at its tip, which plays an important role in the daily life of the goosefish as a lure for its prey … Weighing up to 50 pounds … The goosefish has often been cited for its remarkable appetite. We read, for instance, of one that had made a meal of 21 flounders and 1 dogfish, all of marketable size; of half a pailful of cunners, tomcod, and sea bass in another; of 75 herring in a third; and of one that had taken 7 wild ducks at one meal. In fact it is nothing unusual for one to contain at one time a mass of food half as heavy as the fish itself. And with its enormous mouth (one 3½ feet long gapes about 9 inches horizontally and 8 inches vertically) it is able to swallow fish of almost its own size. Fulton, for instance, found a codling 23 inches long in a British goosefish of only 26 inches, while Field took a winter flounder almost as big as its captor from an American specimen. One that we once gaffed at the surface, on Nantucket Shoals, contained a haddock 31 inches long, weighing 12 pounds, while Captain Atwood long ago described seeing one attempting to swallow another as large as itself.
No regular commercial use has been made of the goosefish in America up to the present time. But it is an excellent food fish, white-meated, free of bones, and of pleasant flavor.
From Fishes of the Gulf of Maine by Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953. Available free online courtesy of MBL/WHOI http://www.gma.org/fogm/Lophius_americanus.htm
If you were a goosefish you would say the “importance” situation has taken a bad turn since 1953. The 2002, third edition, of Fishes of the Gulf of Maine notes: Total landings remained at a low level until the mid-1970s, increasing from a few hundred metric tons to around 6,000 mt in 1978. Landings remained stable at between 8,000 and 10,000 mt until the late 1980s and then increased to a peak level of 26,800 mt in 1996. Usually only the tails are landed. There is also a lucrative market for goosefish livers.
In the 1960s the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries Technological Lab on Emerson Avenue in Gloucester was involved in marketing support for goosefish (monkfish), then considered an underutilized species. I worked there at that time and recall Julia Child and the Boston Globe’s food editor, Dorothy Crandall visiting the lab and providing enthusiastic support. Here’s a 1979 photo of Julia Child with a monkfish. https://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/read/popdy/monkfish/