Spokane man upholds family tradition of catching record fish


Brandon Clayton shows his daughter the record vermillion rockfish he caught.

In some families, tradition means saying a certain toast at Christmas dinner or vacationing in the same spot every August. In Brandon Clayton’s family, tradition means catching big fish.

Clayton, who moved to Spokane from Bellingham earlier this year, recently joined two family members as state record holders for fish they caught. While on a men’s fishing trip on April 30 with his father, brothers, grandfather, and a friend, he hooked into a record vermillion rockfish.

The group had launched out of Neah Bay that morning to fish Marine Area 4. While Clayton and his family have fished the Washington Coast since he was a child, they usually fish Marine Area 5 and Clayton had never fished 4 before. That morning they decided to try something different, and it definitely paid off. Good timing because, being the last day in April, it was the last day to legally retain copper, quillback, and vermillion rockfish. Partway through the day Clayton pulled in the fish. While it wasn’t his first rockfish, it was his first of the vermillion variety.

“At first we thought it was a Yelloweye (rockfish), but once we figured out it was a vermillion and weighed it, we looked it up online to see what the record was,” Clayton said.

At 8.98 pounds his fish was substantially larger than the current record holder- which was 7.1 pounds. Despite all the excitement over having caught a record fish, it was quickly back to business for the boatload of fishermen.

“That one (fish) got special care,” he said. “It got its’ own cooler and ice to keep it wet, but we kept fishing.”

That might be because other members of his family could be feeling some pressure to catch their own record fish. Clayton is the third state fish record holder in his family. It seems to skip a generation each time though as his great, great grandfather pulled in a record steelhead on the Skagit River and his grandfather hooked a record copper rock fish off Point Roberts Reef. Surprisingly, that doesn’t make Clayton’s family as unique as you might expect; there is a surprising number of related people in Washington that hold state fish records. You can read here about how catching record fish is a family affair for many.

Vermilion rockfish aren’t caught by recreational anglers off the coast of Washington nearly as often as black and yellowtail rockfish, so that was another stroke of luck for Clayton. They range from Zaikof Bay, Montague Island, Prince William Sound, Alaska, to San Benito Islands, Baja California. Adults are found in water from 6 to 436 meters deep.

Most rockfish caught off Washington are Black rockfish, with 104,540 reported landed in 2020, followed by Yellowtail rockfish (46,762), canary rockfish (5,797) and blue rockfish (1,432). More information on Washington’s more than 30 species of rockfish is at https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species/bottomfish/rockfish for your next outing, which hopefully will be as exciting as Clayton’s.

“It was the best fishing trip we’ve ever had,” said Clayton. “And it was all done on small gear, jigging.”

To learn more about Washington’s sportfishing records, go to https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/basics/records. The oldest verified state record occurred in 1943.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.