PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- A paddle boarder made a discovery of an extremely rare fish near Port Angeles Sunday that has wildlife researchers buzzing.
The ribbonfish, known as the King-of-Salmon, was found at the Salt Creek Recreation area. Officials with Harbor Wildwatch happened to be at the beach area when the paddle boarder called out that there was a "massive, dead creature" with an "alarmingly large eye" submerged in the creek.
"The creature turned out to be an elusive deep-sea fish, rarely seen in the wild and even rarer to find washed ashore," says Carly Vester, spokesperson for Harbor Wildwatch.
The fish typically live down around 3,000 feet deep along the Pacific Coast and up till now, only four or five had ever been spotted between Washington and British Columbia. This particular specimen is nearly 4.5 feet long and had eyes "the size of a coffee cup," Wildwatch officials described.
The agency's education director surmises the fish just recently washed ashore in the past few days.
"Since there isn’t any noticeable injury, we think it’s likely that this specimen somehow was caught in the surf and washed ashore," said Rachel Easton.
Vester says the "King-of-the-Salmon" name originated with the Makah Tribe, whose legends held that the fish annually led the salmon back to their spawning grounds.
"The catch or consumption of King-of-the-Salmon was forbidden, as it was feared the death would stop the salmon run," Vester said.
The King-of-the-Salmon can grow as large as 6 feet.
“I had never seen anything like this,” said Stena Troyer, science specialist with Harbor Wildwatch. "And we have discovered some incredible things on the beach over the years!"
The State Department of Wildlife has been notified of the discovery.
"The discovery is an incredible learning opportunity to see the species close-up and educate the public about this rare fish and the native legend associated with it," Vester said.