When a strange-looking fish washed up on the shoreline property of Kim and Ela Esterberg of Bainbridge Island, they had no idea what kind of fish they were looking at or how truly rare it was.
“We live about a mile south of Faye Bainbridge State Park,” Kim said. “We went down to the beach last Sunday (Sept. 28) after the Harvest Fair, and there was this long fish, about four feet long, lying on the beach.
“It had come up with the tide,” Kim continued. “I didn’t know what it was. I had never seen a fish like that before.”
Since then, several biologists have identified it as a longnose lancetfish, a deep sea fish known as a voracious predator and seen only rarely in Puget Sound. See the University of Washington fish catalog for basic information.
They are so rare in inland waters that many biologists have never seen them alive or dead in Puget Sound.
A 2002 paper by Alexei M. Orlov and Vasily A. Ul’chenko suggests that the fish come ashore during periods of sudden ocean changes.
In 1994, Greg Johnston, a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, related a story of a 21-year-old fisherman who caught one of these strange fish off Brown’s Point near Tacoma. The fisherman didn’t know what to do with it, so he took its picture and threw it back.