"CRAZIEST DAY EVER AT FISHERMAN'S LANDING! A 91 POUND OPAH SWAM UP ON THE BEACH RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE LANDING. OMG," Doug Kern, co-owner of Fisherman's Landing Tackle Shop excitedly announced on his facebook account.
"I never would have believed it if I wasn't there to see it. The fish was swimming around in circles and then just beached itself. Brandon [an employee of the landing] got a gaff and pulled it up on the sand," Kern added in a reply to his own post.
Opah are expressly prized by sportfishermen, both for their brilliant appearance and for their scarcity. They are deep water pelagic fish, typically occupying depths of 150 to 1,500 feet. They are solitary, and do not school up with their own species, making them next to impossible to target.
There have been a lot of surprising catches in San Diego Bay, as open ocean fish sometimes inexplicably (or in instances, explicably) found their way around Point Loma and into the bay. Abnormal currents and water temperatures have resulted in schools of yellowfin tuna, yellowtail, and other open ocean pelagics being temporarily found inside Zuniga Jetty.
Almost every year, this year included, small grey whales find themselves perusing the bay, attracting tourists and news cameras. But an opah? If it wasn't coming from a reputable source, I'd pass it off as a hoax.
I have never heard of one being seen in San Diego Bay (alive), and have not heard from anyone else who has. It is certainly one of the rarest and most bizarre "catches" ever made in the big bay. Its unclear how or why it ended up where it did, and we will likely never know.