Anglers on a charter boat landed a large, colorful fish. Much to their surprise they found out it was an opah, usually found in more tropical waters.

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Warm ocean currents drift north from the southern West Coast, and huge schools of albacore tuna chasing baitfish follow the blue water along with some other strange fish.

Pursuing tuna far offshore has become very popular, luring anglers from all across the Pacific Northwest and beyond, and every now and then someone will hook into mackerel, dorado and, of late, an opah.

After a few futile tuna trips in past years related to bad weather, Jim Watson, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and his friends finally got a chance on Sunday to wet a line with Mark Coleman, owner of All Rivers & Saltwater Charters out of Westport, Washington.

“We fished straight offshore about 45 miles, and it was fairly slow for tuna most likely due to the full moon that night,” said Coleman, whose boat makes express-style, one-day trips for tuna.

On a mid-morning bait stop, Watson was tossing a live anchovy near the water’s surface when something strong hit his bait attached to P-Line fluorocarbon 35 pound test line on an Okuma Cedros rod and reel.

After a 15 minute fight, the large, colorful, deep-bodied fish surfaced, and much to their surprise they found out it was an opah, usually found in more tropical waters.

(Pending state record opah. Photo courtesy of Mark Coleman, owner of All Rivers & Saltwater Charters.)
(Pending state record opah. Photo courtesy of Mark Coleman, owner of All Rivers & Saltwater Charters.)

The 35 pound, 11 ounce fish was officially weighed and taken to the state Fish and Wildlife office in Olympia for verification as a possible state record.

“We rarely see these fish and hear about one caught every five years or so,” Coleman said.

Once verified, it would break the current record-holding fish — 28.18 pounds — caught by Rick Shapland, of Molalla, Oregon, during a two-day tuna-fishing trip in August 2013 aboard the Ranger with Ocean Sportfishing Charters in Westport, manned by skipper Don Davenport.

In a twist to this whole strange fish story was the deckhand, Joel Torrison, who landed Shapland’s opah two summers ago, was also the deckhand on Coleman’s boat that has now landed the pending state-record fish.

“It was weird, and felt like the twilight zone that the last one caught on the Ranger was also landed again by Joel,” Coleman said. “Talk about getting struck by lightning twice.”

Even in their own native waters, opahs are referred to as a prized fish seldom caught by sport anglers.

Here is my opah story from 2013.