Lance Peterson, a fly-fishing guide in the East Cape region of Baja California Sur, can now add opah to his list of rare catches.
But Friday's catch was really more of a collection after Peterson spotted the colorful “moonfish” while kayak fishing in the Sea of Cortez.
"There were absolutely no rods or reels or fish tackle of any kind involved – just a kayak and a gaff,” he said. “We spotted it bobbing around offshore, confirmed it with binoculars and then went out to fetch it. It was dead when we got to it.”
Mysteriously, there were no gaff marks and no apparent signs of injury. The fish, estimated to weigh about 100 pounds, was fresh enough to still hold its brilliant coloration.
“I cannot imagine how it died,” said Peterson, who lives in La Ribera, about 60 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. “The flesh looked spectacular. I spent hours filleting it.”
Opah, sometimes referred to as moonfish, inhabit tropical and temperate seas and reside at depths of between 300 and 1,200 feet. They’re solitary swimmers, except during spawning seasons. Sportfishing catches are rare, and there's no direct commercial fishery for opah, because they’re not a schooling fish.
However, longliners catch enough opah incidentally – primarily in Hawaiian waters – to make them available on some restaurant menus.
–Image is courtesy of Lance Peterson