The opah is a solitary denizen of deep water and caught very rarely by anglers fishing far offshore for other species.
So folks at Fisherman's Landing Tackle in San Diego were understandably surprised this week to discover that a 91-pound opah had swum right up to the dock area, where it was promptly gaffed by a landing employee.
That would mean the exotic opah either swam into and through much of San Diego Harbor to reach the landing, or the colorful fish was somehow delivered alive—say, in the ballast of a ship or the hold of a commercial fishing boat.
Either way, it was a bizarre event, one that led landing co-owner Doug Kern to write on Facebook: "CRAZIEST DAY EVER AT FISHERMAN'S LANDING!"
Kern, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, also posted this statement: "I never would have believed it if I wasn't there to see it. The fish was swimming around in circles and then just beached itself. Brandon [Buono, a landing employee] got a gaff and pulled it up on the sand."
Opah are large and colorful fish that roam tropical and temperate seas and are delicious as table fare. They're caught mostly by long-lining commercial fishermen targeting tuna and other pelagic fish. However, they're caught very sporadically by anglers on San Diego's long-range sportfishing fleet, which targets tuna and wahoo in Mexican waters.
One of the Facebook comments reads, "That was the El Nino messenger," in reference to a warm-water event that appears to be developing in the eastern Pacific and could result in sending exotic species of fish far north of their typical range.
Those fish might include opah, yellowfin tuna, or mahi-mahi. But don't count on any of those fish swimming ashore.
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