Thanking the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act
November 22, 2023 •iSportsman Staff
The opah fish made headlines this month when a 100-pound specimen washed up on the Oregon coast, according to CNN. Any sighting of the opah fish, also known as the moonfish, tends to be an exciting event for spectators, scientists and anglers alike. Unique does not begin to cover this highly sought-after deep-sea dweller.
The opah was discovered to be the only warm-blooded fish in 2015, allowing the fish advantages over its cold-bodied companions. It can swim faster, react quicker and its warm-blooded nature also allows for better eye and brain function. All these unique features allow the opah to comfortably live and hunt at depths between 165 feet and 1,300 feet. So, it’s odd to see one washed up on shore, and it takes an exceptional amount of skill and luck to reel one in on a line.
Despite being found in oceans all over the world, the first recorded opah caught off Ocean City, Mass. was in 2017. Weighing 105.4-pounds, this opah was caught at 1,700 feet using a strip bait that was intended for swordfish. Austin Ensor, a fishing group attendee, told ABC7 news it took the group an hour and half to reel in this once-in-a-lifetime catch.
In 2020 in Virginia Beach, Va., a group of anglers, also in search of swordfish, reeled in a 143-pound opah. Using a hand-crank rod, the group fought for about 45 minutes to get the fish onto the boat. The fish is believed to also be the first-ever of its kind caught in the area.
The world record for the largest ever opah is 180-pounds according to The International Game Fish Association and was caught in 2014. Though the opah fish have a long history of being a popular catch in Hawaii, an increase of catches in Southern California was reported in 2012—though still rare, and even more so on the east coast. In the Philippines, a fisherman caught a first-ever for the area 143-pound opah in 2020. Local fisheries experts speculate that recent earthquakes may have “spooked” the fish to the surface.
NOAA scientists began a tagging program in 2011 to learn more about this elusive giant. As of yet not much is known about the opah’s lifespan, spawning habits population or distance traveling capabilities.