A trio of fishermen from Southern California managed to nab a rare accomplishment: the capture of three behemoth opahs in a single fishing trip. According to Excel Long Range Fishing, anglers Armando Castillo, Joe Ludow, and Travis Savala all got their own opah near San Martin. The anglers’ fish weighed 151 pounds, 180 pounds, and 124 pounds, respectively.
For many, opahs are considered a rare fish to catch, especially on the West Coast. The fish are characterized by their large, disc-like appearance and delectable meat. Opah are increasingly caught by commercial fishermen as bycatch, but a very valuable one at that. Opah meat is especially popular with seafood lovers for its rich, pink flesh. Despite this, however, opahs have historically not been targeted for commercial harvest. In the 1980s, the state of Hawaii began promoting the fish as a little-utilized food source, leading to a surge in demand for the fish.
What makes this catch especially unusual is that opahs do not school, so it is unsual for anglers to catch more than one at a time. OutdoorHub contacted Excel Long Range Fishing and was told that the anglers initially hooked a total of five opahs. The captain of the charter boat, Justin Fleck, remarked that he had only seen one before in his time with Excel.
Research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that more and more fishermen have reported opah catches in the last several years, possibly as a result of warming waters. Opahs are generally found in the deep ocean, which makes the fish still a bit of a mystery to researchers. Experts say there is no indication that the species is in decline and that opahs appear to be very productive during spawning season.
Anglers value the fish for their rarity and meat, which is described as rich, creamy, and with a bit of fat—like a combination of tuna and swordfish. Those who picture an opah as a large hunk of meat are bound to be disappointed, however. Only a third of an opah’s total mass is consumable, the rest is just bone and thick skin.
Image courtesy Excel Long Range Fishing