Washington Offshore Trollers Chasing Albacore Catch Super-Rare Shortbill Spearfish

Shortbill spearfish are so unheard of off the coast of Washington that there is no state record for the species – until now.

Shortbille spearfish caught off Washington
Eamon Hoffman with the Defiance-caught shortbill spearfish. Courtesy All Rivers & Saltwater Charters

October 7 is a day Seattle-area angler Armando Lara is one he’ll long remember. He and five Seattle buddies were trolling for albacore out of Westport, Washington aboard the 29-foot boat “Defiance”, captained by 35-year-old Ian Winder.

Also trolling offshore nearby that day, 45 miles west of the Columbia River mouth, was Capt. Mark Coleman, age 42, who lives in Snoqualmie, Washington.

Coleman owns “All Rivers and Saltwater Charter” service, which had booked both boats of anglers that day looking for albacore.

“We’ve been getting albacore up to about 25 pounds, and Ian got a blind strike on a trolled green-and-purple ‘Zuker’ lure, a popular one for tuna,” says Coleman. “Nothing seemed unusual as Ian stopped the boat to pull other lines and fight the fish. Then what everyone thought was an albacore started jumping and grayhounding, and we knew that was no albacore, but likely a striped marlin.”

After about 15 minutes, angler Lara got the fish to the boat, and deck-hand Eamon Hoffman gaffed the fish and pulled it aboard. They started looking at the almost-unheard of billfish caught off the Washington Coast, when Coleman pulled up to take a look and take photos.

“That’s no marlin, I told them,” Coleman recalls, according to Oregon Live.

“It’s a shortbill spearfish.”

Any kind of billfish caught off the coast of Washington is a rare event. A spearfish is almost unheard of, and the state has no record of such a prize being caught in its waters.

This year has been unprecedented in the area offshore Washington, with oversize bluefin and yellowfin tuna, dolphin, and now spearfish being caught in numbers that almost defy belief.

Spearfish are a notorious warm-water species, with most IGFA records coming from Hawaii and Australia, none from the continental U.S.

No mention of spearfish catches are known from Washington or Oregon, but one fish five years ago was reportedly taken off southern California.

The fish was not officially weighed or measured by the anglers or at a marina.

“Right now the fish is at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Mill Creek, where it will be measured and weighed,” said Coleman. “We guessed its weight at about 40 to 45 pounds.”

That should make it a state record no matter the weight because it’s a first for Washington.

Coleman says the anglers will fillet the fish for the buddies aboard the Defiance boat that day, and a reproduction mount of the memorable billfish will be made.

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