Three anglers recently completed a rare and perhaps unprecedented feat by each landing an opah on the same day aboard a San Diego-based boat fishing in Mexican waters.
Opah, also referred to as moonfish, are rarely caught by recreational fishermen, and for three people to catch one of these beautifully colored fish on the same day is considered extraordinary.
But lost amid the opah-trifecta hype that swirled in fishing circles after the photo surfaced (see below) was that one of the moonfish, a 181-pounder caught by Joe Ludlow, is 18 pounds heavier than the existing world record. (The fish were caught aboard the Excel, a luxury long-range sportfishing boat that spends several days at a time in Mexcan waters.)
The International Game Fish Association lists as the all-tackle world record a 163-pound opah caught in October 1998 off San Luis Obispo in Central California.
Armando Castillo, Joe Ludlow and Travis Savala (left to right) pose with opah aboard the Excel; photo courtesy of Excel Sportfishing
That was an El Niño year and El Niño-like conditions (unusually warm water) are prevalent this summer off California. Opah catches tend to be associated with warm-water events.
Justin Fleck, captain of the Excel, said Ludlow was one of five anglers that hooked an opah at about the same time, soon after the boat had stopped over a school of yellowtail.
Most passengers were fishing near the surface with bait, but the five anglers dropped heavy lures into deeper water, and suddenly all five were hooked into large fish that fought much differently than yellowtail.
“The fish were pulling the guys up the rail toward the bow, and back toward the stern, then back to the bow, but they weren’t really taking any line,” Fleck said. “We weren’t sure what they were.”
Opah are oval-shaped with silvery-red bodies and vermillion-colored fins. When the first opah was spotted and identified, many customers stopped fishing and started following the five anglers...
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