Opah! Officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced on Tuesday that the state has a new record opah, thanks to a visiting angler from Idaho.
Jim Watson of Couer d’Alene caught the vibrantly red fish with anchovies 45 miles offshore of Westport in September. The fish was weighed at 35.67 pounds and measured 37-7/8 inches in length.
“Catching the fish was a lot of work, but fun. They really fight, and it took a while,” Watson told officials. “The captain and crew came unglued, because you just don’t see these fish very often.”
Opah, also known as moonfish, are rarely found in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. The disc-shaped fish generally stick to tropical waters, but in warmer years will occasionally venture north.
Scientists recently discovered that the species is the first fish to be entirely warm-blooded. This may explain why the opah fares better in cold waters than most other tropical fish. Opahs can weigh up to 600 pounds and roughly a third of their mass is edible meat.
“It was not like any fish I’ve tasted, but it was really good,” said Watson. “Every bit of it went to good use.”
The state’s previous record opah was a 28.18-pound fish caught by Rick Shapland in 2013, also off Westport. When OutdoorHub first covered this story back in October, it was revealed that the same deckhand who helped Shapland catch his record fish also assisted Watson as well.
“Talk about getting struck by lightning twice,” said Mark Coleman, who owned All Rivers & Saltwater Charters and was present during Watson’s catch. “We’ve been waiting for this one for a long time! Good work there Jim Watson!”
Image courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife