Photos Show Weird 3.5Ft-Long Opah Fish That Washed up on Oregon Beach in 'Rare' Find

A weird-looking 3.5-foot-long fish was found washed up on an Oregon beach on Wednesday—and identified as a rare sighting of an opah.

The Seaside Aquarium in the city of Seaside said the fish, which weighed 100 pounds, was spotted on Sunset Beach on Wednesday morning by a member of the public and reported to its staff at 8:00 a.m.

After seeing photos of the "unusual" fish, aquarium staff headed to the beach to recover it. Also known as moonfish, opah are characterized by their flat, greyish silver round bodies, red mouths and fins, and big eyes enriched with gold. Near their bellies are red scales with white spots. The specimen found on Sunset Beach had orange scales covering most of its body.

"It created quite the stir at the Aquarium where folks were encouraged to come take a look at this beautiful and odd looking fish," the aquarium wrote alongside a photo of the shimmery fish on its Facebook page.

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The Seaside Aquarium said it was "always on the lookout for new educational opportunities," so a group of students would be invited to dissect the opah. This will happen in partnership with Columbia River Maritime Museum. Until the school year starts, the fish will be frozen.

Lynn Mattes, from the Marine Resources Program at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, told Newsweek: "Finding an opah on a beach like that is a rare event, for sure."

Recreational anglers occasionally catch opah when fishing for albacore tuna. When this happens, it's "big news" in the marine fishing community, according to Mattes.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife last took physical samples from an opah in 2015, when three were sampled, Mattes added.

In the aquarium's Facebook post, it said spotting an opah in Oregon was rare but not unheard of, pointing to a 2009 report about a man who had caught one 37 miles off the mouth of the Columbia River.

OregonLive wrote at the time that a man named Dave Phillips was looking for tuna when he hooked the 97-pound 4-ounce fish. Phillips ate some of his catch at a Hawaiian restaurant near his home in Vancouver, Washington, and described it as "delicious."

Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, told Oregon Coast Beach Connection the opah was "a pretty cool find for a Wednesday morning."

Chandler added: "I may have seen one years ago that we got that was caught on a fishing boat—a baby one."

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium told Oregon Coast Beach Connection: "They come up here from time to time in the summer just like mola mola.

"Rarely do we see them washed ashore, though. They follow their food in the warm water current offshore. We really don't know how many or how often. Fisherman will see them more frequently than beachgoers."

There could be a number of reasons that the fish ended up on the beach, according to Mattes. She doubted the opah was caught and discarded by anglers, because it is a "prized species."

Mattes said: "What happens to some other offshore species we occasionally see on the beach is that the individual may have been sick (e.g. parasites) or old, or for some other reason ended up in the cooler coast waters and currents and just was not able to make its way back into the warmer water it prefers. Unable to handle the cooler waters, they succumb and end up getting washed ashore."

Anyone who finds an unusual fish or other animal on the beach should take photos from different angles, alongside another item to illustrate its size, and note the location, she added.

They should then contact a local aquarium "as they are often excited to see new things, and likely welcome the opportunity to have a new educational resource.

"Contacting the local fish and wildlife agency is also helpful, as we also like to be aware of new/unusual species."

opah moonfish, getty, stock
Stock image of a moonfish eating a jellyfish. An opah washed up in Oregon. Getty Images