A group of Maryland sport fishermen pulled off a potentially historic catch on Sunday in Ocean City, hauling in a 105-pound fish with a lunar nickname.
Opah, or “moonfish,” aren’t known to swim in Maryland waters. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, they stick to tropical and temperate zones, a far cry from the sub-60 degree November waters off the coast of Ocean City.
On Sunday, fisherman Austin Ensor and company were out taking advantage of those chillier conditions trying to reel in some swordfish. According to a video from HookedOnOC, they nabbed an 80-pounder after several attempts. On their next try, they stumbled across something totally different that took the bait.
“We knew it was exactly somewhere between a tuna and a swordfish,” Ensor said in the video. Only a week earlier, he’d caught a bigeye tuna that put up a similar fight, he said.
“He stayed about 300 feet from the boat for an hour,” Ensor continued. Only when the fish was 40 to 50 feet from the boat did he suddenly yell, “It’s an opah!”
What’s an opah, you ask? NOAA says it’s a round, flat fish with red fins and a typically silver-to-rose gradient on its scales. As you can see in the above video, they can grow quite large, averaging 100 pounds in size.
They’re not endangered or even at risk of overfishing, according to the agency. Maryland-based seafood supplier J.J. McDonnell is among the many seafood vendors that sell the fish, which the company says has a “rich, creamy taste” and can be cooked in six different ways.
According to WTOP, Ensor had to turn to YouTube to see how to properly cut up and prep his catch; none of his fisherman friends or mentors had ever dealt with one.
It’s unclear whether an opah has ever been caught in Maryland, but given that they typically inhabit Pacific waters, it’s unlikely. A spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Assuming the fish’s description and appearance are a match with his catch, Ensor’s haul could go down in state history. “Fish of a lifetime,” he said.
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