Stay Eat Events Weather Beaches

Spiky, Bitey-Looking Fish Washing Up on Oregon Coast Lately: Why, What They're Not

Published 05/02/23 at 10:44 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Spiky, Bitey-Looking Fish Washing Up on Oregon Coast Lately: Why, What They're Not

Latest Coastal Lodging News Alerts
In Seaside:
Includes exclusive listings; some specials in winter
In Cannon Beach:
Includes rentals not listed anywhere else
In Manzanita, Wheeler, Rockaway Beach:
Some specials for winter
In Pacific City, Oceanside:
Some specials for winter
In Lincoln City:
Some specials for winter
In Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach:
Some specials for winter
In Newport:
Look for some specials
In Waldport
Some specials for winter
In Yachats, Florence
Some specials for winter
Southern Oregon Coast Hotels / Lodgings
Reedsport to Brookings, places to stay; winter deals

(Oregon Coast) – There has been quite the run lately of an unusual-looking fish along the Oregon coast. Oregon State Parks and Recreation (OPRD) is reporting a fair amount of these spiky, toothy fish, found from Bandon all the way up to Nehalem Bay. Some have even been alive, according to the agency.

They are often confused for barracuda, but they are an entirely different kind of fish altogether, known as the longnose lancetfish (Alepisaurus ferox). They may look similar, but that's about all the lancetfish has in common with that beastie. Barracudas are not found along the Oregon coast or Washington coast.

Finding a lancetfish was until recently considered somewhat rare, but now with the advent of social media and lots of cell phones out on the sands officials are realizing they are merely uncommon - at least when it comes to finding them on the beaches.

In fact, Seaside Aquarium found one farther north near the wreck of the Peter Iredale early this week. Some of those reported by OPRD were actually still alive or partially alive, and one was apparently able to swim away. That has also happened to the aquarium in the past, but usually encounters with them still alive in the surf have not ended well.

Photo Oregon Coast Aquarium

The question everyone is asking these days is why are they showing up? That is a bit of a mystery, which adds a little more spice to these intriguing Oregon coast finds.

Keith Chandler with Seaside Aquarium has dealt with a lot of them in the past. Usually, finding just one is a telltale sign.

“We don't really know why,” Chandler told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “Are they in the middle of some kind of mating, or whatever? It's kind of like when there's a lot of sea turtles washing up. If there's one then all of a sudden there'll be a bunch of others. If there's one lancetfish then there are a lot of them. And that's just what's happening.”

Courtesy Seaside Aquarium: a lancetfish on the south Washington coast

Other possibilities, Chandler said, is that they're coming up from the deep towards the surface in the search for food, then getting washed ashore.

Indeed, there was an unusual run of lancetfish all over the Oregon coast in May of 2008, with as many as 20 spotted in areas like Cannon Beach, Seaside, Warrenton, Newport and Lincoln City that spring.

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium said the fanged lancetfish is a bit of a puzzle in itself.

“Little is known about the longnose lancetfish,” Boothe said. “We know they range from the southern Bering Sea to Chile and occupy surface waters down to 6,000 feet.”

It's no surprise then that the lancetfish has quite the reputation for being a deadly predator. Take a gander at that long line of what are often called formidable teeth.

“Resembling a barracuda this is one fish you would not expect to run across along the Oregon coast,” Boothe said. “Their beautiful, large eyes, sharp fang-like teeth, and serpent-like body distinguishes this fish from most others living in the Pacific Northwest.”

One thing scientists do know about them is that they have poor digestive systems. Necropsies done on them often find a good deal of undigested prey.

If you find one on the beach, OPRD is asking you take a photo and post it to their Facebook page or the NOAA Fisheries West Coast pages.

Oregon Coast Hotels for this event - South Coast Hotels - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours



Photo ODFW

More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....

More About Oregon Coast Restaurants, Dining.....

Coastal Spotlight

Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

LATEST Related Oregon Coast Articles

N. Oregon Coast's Hug Point Has Its Ancient, Millions-of-Years-Old Secrets
Just a few short miles of Cannon Beach you'll bump into Hug Point. Geology, marine sciences, history

Sci-Fi Connections to Oregon Coast Includes Star Trek, LOST, Stargate, 65
A varied and surprising list from Brookings to Astoria. Sciences

Leech Lane Access and Beyond the Arch at N. Oregon Coast's Arch Cape
Near Cannon Beach there's the arch, remnants of other arches and danger

Southern Resident Orcas Off Oregon Coast Designated as Endangered Under State...
Only 76 of this type of killer whale left in the region. Marine sciences

Dune Novels, Movies Began with Frank Herbert's Visit to Oregon Coast Dunes, F...
Dune: Part Two has roots in Frank Herbert's research in the National Dunes Rec Area

N. Oregon Coast's UnWined Event is Tasty Preview to Astoria's Crab, Seafood a...
UnWined takes place on March 16 at Astoria's Liberty Theater. Astoria events

Quiet Yet Hot Little U.S. Travel Destination: Rockaway Beach on N. Oregon Coast
Now, it's still seven miles of captivating beaches, often full of solitude

What Not to Do on Oregon Coast: Small Beaches During Big Tides, Video
Just about every year it happens somewhere along Oregon's coast. Weather, beach safety

Back to Oregon Coast

Contact Advertise on Oregon Coast Beach Connection
All Content, unless otherwise attributed, copyright Oregon Coast Beach Connection. Unauthorized use or publication is not permitted