Extremely rare fish with gigantic eyes washes ashore near Port Angeles

During the lowest tide of the year, a paddleboarder made a rare discovery in Salt Creek, west of Port Angeles on Sunday.

"A gentleman on his paddleboard flags us down and goes, 'Hey, are you guys biologists? There's this dead thing in the creek, it's got a huge eye and I can't tell what it is,'" said Rachel Easton with Harbor Wildwatch.

To Rachel and her Harbor Wildwatch team's surprise, it was an extremely rare fish called King-of-the-salmon. It's name comes from the Makah people who believe this fish leads the salmon home to spawn. The tribe's legend has it that catching or consuming the fish will stop the salmon run.

King-of-the-salmon is not a member of the salmon species, but a part of the ribbon fish family.

"The one we saw was approximately 53 inches long, so almost as big as me. It's not a very wide fish either. It was only about 3 inches wide, so 3 inches wide by 53 inches long, it's a thin and ribbon like fish," said Easton.

As for its unusually large eyes, the fish typically live deep in the ocean, about 3,000 feet beneath the surface, and uses its huge pupil to gather light. They're found in the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska down to Chile, but rarely found washed ashore.

"We see maybe a couple wash up every year off the Washington or British Columbia coast, so maybe 1 or 2 a year. So they're fairly rare when they do show up," said Easton.

Easton and her team believe the fish swam too close to shore and was killed by the waves. They're using this discovery to learn more about the elusive species.