New state record mahi mahi caught off Westport
The 21 pound, 48-inch-long fish — also known as dolphinfish or dorado — was caught 42 miles off the Washington coast by angler Wade La Fontaine on Aug. 25.
Wade La Fontaine is an avid saltwater angler who has been going on trips off the Washington coast for more than 10 years chasing salmon, lingcod, halibut, and tuna.
Even with all that offshore experience, La Fontaine never expected the fish he landed on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023: the new Washington state record dolphinfish, also known as mahi mahi or dorado.
The 21-pounder with a brilliant yellow belly and blueish-green back was caught with Captain Keith Johnson aboard the charter boat Tunacious trolling plastic squid behind a spreader roughly 42 miles off the coast of southwest Washington.
Upon landing at the dock in Westport, the dolphinfish was checked by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Fish Program biologist, then weighed on a certified scale at Ocean Gold Seafoods. La Fontaine’s Washington Record Sport Fish Application was then reviewed by a WDFW Regional Fish Program Manager and other staff, and certified on Aug. 30.
Dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) are sporadically caught by recreational and commercial fishers targeting albacore tuna and other pelagic species off the Washington and Oregon coasts, including a handful recorded last year at the ports of Westport and Ilwaco and at least two this summer.
Most mahi mahi caught off our coast are smaller fish in the 6- to 12-pound range. La Fontaine’s fish — which was 48 inches long and 40 inches to the inside fork of the tail — was more reminiscent of large dolphinfish caught in warmer waters off southern California, Mexico, and Hawaii.
The charter reported the water temperature in the area of ocean where the dolphinfish was caught measured 70 degrees; warm even for these warmer offshore waters though not unprecedented especially during El Nino years.
Washington’s previous state record dolphinfish was 16.27 pounds caught by Albert DaSilva out of Ilwaco in 2013.
“I’m so appreciative to Keith Johnson, Darrell Johnson, Raymond Paraíso, and Aden Kallerson with Far Corners Adventures Sport Fishing,” said La Fontaine. “Without these charters doing it (making the run offshore) day after day, I wouldn’t have had a chance to connect with this fish.”
While he hails from Camano Island, La Fontaine said he fishes for albacore tuna out of Westport up to six times a year, and hopes he earned this very special fish.
“I’m blessed beyond comprehension,” he said. “I’ll be getting another tattoo of a mahi!”
In Washington state, dolphinfish are listed within the “Other Food Fish” category and have a daily limit of 2 per person. Other Food Fish Refers to species that occur in our waters irregularly, usually in coastal areas during the summer months and also includes opah, swordfish, striped marlin, barracuda, white sea bass, bonito, California yellowtail, and pomfret.
Albacore tuna are the primary target for Pacific Northwest offshore anglers, with large schools or “patches” of these “longfin tuna” abundant off the coast of northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia in the summer and early fall. Albacore are found in the “blue water”, a mass of warmer Sea Surface Temperature water typically found off the West Coast of North America during summer and fall, and off Southern California year-round.
Recreational anglers fish for albacore 40 to 100 miles off the Washington Coast, with commercial fishers regularly venturing even further. Occasionally albacore will come in as close as 30 miles and, on rare occasions, they have been known to come in as close as 15 miles or less.
Many charter boats target albacore out of Westport and Ilwaco on both one-day and multi-day trips, while independent (non-charter) anglers with large, ocean-capable boats also fish tuna out of these ports as well as occasionally La Push, Neah Bay and Sekiu when weather and water conditions allow. Check out our blog post on choosing a fishing charter.
Tuna and mackerel fishing is open year-round off the Washington coast, with weather and ocean conditions as a limiting factor. No minimum size or daily limit except northern bluefin, skipjack, and yellowfin tuna, which have a daily limit of 2 each.
Information on how to submit a possible state record fish is available at: https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/basics/records