Biologists don’t know much about opah. The big, round, flounder-esque fish are wonderfully colorful but incredibly elusive. If they school it’s only when spawning, and their social structure is anyone’s guess. When they are caught, which is rare enough, they’re incidental catches to whatever species the angler was after. So five fishermen hooking into five silver-red mysteries at once is unbelievable.

Not to mention that one of them is the new world record for the International Game Fish Association’s all-tackle.

The fish were hooked on August 1, 2014, by five men on board a luxury sport-fishing boat based out of San Diego. According to Grind TV, the Excel was in 190 feet of water near San Martin Island when Joe Ludlow and four others started their respective fights. 

The fish kept the line tight but never rose or ran.

“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,” said Justin Fleck, captain of the Excel. “We weren’t sure what they were.”

Ludlow’s was the first aboard at 30 minutes into the fight. Two others followed soon after, but two broke free and went back to … well, wherever it is they go.

Ludlow’s fish weighed 181 lbs.—18 lbs. more than the previous world record. The paperwork was submitted to IGFA and the fish was officially titled all-tackle champ at 180 lbs., 12 oz.

Commonly called moonfish, opah seem to favor warm water. The number of catches increases in El Niño years—years where water is unusually warm. The previous world record of 163 pounds was caught under similar circumstances in 1998.


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