Opah, also known as moonfish, are rarely found in the colder waters of the Pacific Northwest. These medallion-shaped fish are uncommon enough in their native tropical waters, but every once in a while they will venture north and be hooked by a very lucky angler. According to The Seattle Times, Jim Watson of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho may have hooked Washington State’s newest record opah during a vacation with family and friends off Westport late last month.
“We fished straight offshore about 45 miles, and it was fairly slow for tuna most likely due to the full moon that night,” said Mark Coleman, who owned All Rivers & Saltwater Charters and was present during the catch.
The full moon may not have been good for tuna, but it seemed to attract at least one of the very fish named after it. Coleman said the angler landed the fish after fighting it for 15 minutes on a 35-pound test line and an Okuma Cedros rod and reel.
“This guy weighed 36lbs on a our scale. What cool catch. We’ve been waiting for this one for a long time! Good work there Jim Watson!” Coleman posted with pictures of the fish to Facebook.
The final weight pegged the opah slight below at 35 pounds and 11 ounces. That should still be enough to unseat the current state record, which belongs to a 28.18-pound fish caught by Rick Shapland in 2013. One of the more interesting coincidences between the two records is that the deckhand who helped Shapland reel his opah in over two years ago, Joel Torrison, is the same one who assisted Watson during his catch.
“Talk about getting struck by lightning twice,” Coleman commented.
Watson’s moonfish was submitted to Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife for verification.
Opahs are only caught in the Pacific Northwest about once every few years. In their native waters these large and luminous fish can grow up to 600 pounds and reach a length of six feet. About one third of the fish is edible, while the majority of the weight is comprised of bone and leathery skin. Earlier this year scientists discovered that the opah is entirely warm-blooded, which gives the moonfish an advantage while hunting in cold waters. That same trait may also be what allows the opah to migrate north where other fish could not.
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