Sometimes the biggest fish come from unexpected places. Such was the case when Washington angler Wade La Fontaine caught a record-breaking mahi mahi off the coast of southwest Washington on Aug. 23. The 48-inch-long fish weighed 21 pounds on the nose, which easily broke the standing state record of 16.27 pounds. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife certified La Fontaine’s new record Wednesday.
La Fontaine caught the record mahi while on a charter trip with Far Corners Adventures Sportfishing. With Capt. Keith Johnson at the helm of the Tunacious, the group left Westport on Friday morning and ran about 42 miles offshore. They were trolling with artificial squid baits in the hopes of hooking a tuna, salmon, or lingcod. Neither Johnson nor LaFontaine expected to reel in a mahi mahi, and when they gaffed the brilliantly colored fish at the side of the boat, they were blown away.
“[Keith and I] both lost our voices screaming after it was on the boat!” La Fontaine wrote on Facebook. “Forever grateful!”
They were surprised because mahi mahi (also known as dolphinfish or dorado) aren’t caught off the Washington and Oregon Coasts very often. The species prefers warmer water temperatures, and they’re more closely associated with Mexico and other waters further south. Capt. Johnson did note, however, that the water temps that day were around 70 degrees, which is warmer than usual.
WDFW pointed out in a press release that the species is only “sporadically caught by recreational and commercial fishers” in Washington. Only a handful of mahi mahi catches were recorded last year, according to the agency, and those fish were all noticeably smaller than the ones pulled from typical dorado waters.
“Most mahi mahi caught off our coast are smaller fish in the 6- to 12-pound range,” WDFW explained. “La Fontaine’s fish was more reminiscent of large dolphinfish caught in the waters off southern California, Mexico, and Hawaii.”
La Fontaine told WDFW that he plans to memorialize his record catch. But instead of having a replica made, he’s getting inked up instead.
“I’ll be getting another tattoo of a mahi!” he said.