Sport fishermen near Ocean City brought in a surprising catch on Sunday: an opah.
Sunset Marina’s ship Primary Search was fishing for swordfish after leaving Ocean City at around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday and had just brought in an 80-pound swordfish when the rare catch happened.
When fishing for swordfish, “we drop bait all the way to the bottom,” said boat captain James Ensor, which is about 1,700 feet down, which is what the crew was doing when one of their lines caught onto something bigger.
According to Ensor, it took over an hour to reel in the 105-pound-fish which was a collective effort between Ensor and crew members Tommy Clark, Brian Stewart and James Dozerbach. Ensor said in a video produced by Sunset Marina that he originally thought the fish was a tuna before realizing it was the rare opah.
“It was definitely our rarest catch,” said Ensor, who also says the crew tends to bring in tuna and swordfish. Ensor isn’t sure how the fish got all the way to Maryland, noting that the Gulf Stream is “relatively close, about 100 miles away...so maybe he got a little lost.”
Opahs, also known as moonfish or sunfish, are the only known warm-blooded fish and tend to be found in tropical waters. They are often large, flat and a deep red-orange with white spots. Ensor said they are tend to be found near Hawaii, where they’re a popular dish in Hawaiian restaurants. On the morning of the catch, Ensor said the water temperature was around 59 degrees.
“It’s pretty cool, definitely a sense of accomplishment...we have a pretty young crew, so it was great that they were able to experience this,” said Ensor of catching the fish.
Ensor says that they plan on eating the fish on Tuesday and said he was contacted by several local chefs who have served opah before. According to Ensor, it’s best to let the fish sit for 4-5 days before serving it.
The Department of Natural Resources cannot confirm at this time how many of these fish have been caught in Maryland.