Catching an opah off Southern California is rare, although a dozen or so catches were logged during an unusually warm summer-fall fishing season that also produced other odd catches.
Finally, however, somebody went overboard and photographed an opah beneath the surface, and most people will agree that the images are spectacular.
Ralph Pace, a conservation photographer and Scripps Institution of Oceanography graduate, was part of a research team conducting studies recently near San Clemente Island. The group had snagged an opah with experimental fishing gear, and Pace dove in with his camera as the fish was being cut free.
"We found this guy off San Clemente and he [weighed] about 120 pounds," Pace said, via email. "I was able to jump in the water with my underwater camera and enjoy a few moments with the opah before he dove back down."
Pace said he barely had time to capture the images that accompany this story before the fish disappeared.
Opah, or moonfish, are mostly solitary inhabitants of tropical and temperate zones. They typically roam at depths between 300 and 1,200 feet.
That's why catching them, especially with recreational fishing gear, is so rare.
There is no direct commercial fishery for opah, because they are not a schooling fish. But enough are caught incidentally by longline fishermen—primarily off Hawaii—to make them available on some restaurant menus.
The opah's flesh is prized as table fare, either cooked or raw as sushi and sashimi.
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