Watching Our Water Ways

Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Another strange creature shows up in Puget Sound

October 6th, 2008 by cdunagan

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.

Lancetfish found on East Bainbridge shoreline // Photo courtesy of Kim and Ela Esterberg

“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.


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One Response to “Another strange creature shows up in Puget Sound”

  1. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Its exciting to see something we didn’t know existed.

    Seeing this reminds me of several such wonders…the first time I saw a flat fish – the stunning sheen and iridescent deep blue color of a shark accidentally caught by my fishing buddy during my first salmon charter at West Port – and the sheer beauty of seeing a baby octopus come out of nowhere and shoot by my mask during my first open dive off Seabeck. I have never before or since seen anything move so gracefully….
    Sharon O’Hara

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist