Q: About 90 nautical miles east of Paranagua, Brazil, in an area called Santos Basin — about 100 nautical miles offshore, pretty much in the middle of nowhere — we were drifting on an oil tanker, waiting to load crude oil off the platforms. While we waited, I figured I might as well do some fishing, mostly for school-size tuna and dolphin, large and small. That’s where I foul-hooked this strange fish. At first, I thought it was a half-eaten tuna. What did I catch?
Capt. Kim Aarup
A: Kim, you snagged a slender mola, Ranzania laevis. This member of the family Molidae — the ocean sunfishes — is much smaller as an adult than other members of its family; its maximum length is about 3 feet, compared with more than 10 feet for the other three ocean sunfish species. Unlike most bony fishes, ocean sunfishes have a skeleton composed largely of cartilage. The slender mola has a circumglobal distribution in tropical and temperate waters but is relatively rare in the tropical western Atlantic. Dr. C. Richard Robins, an eminent ichthyologist, told me that he once tried to clean an ocean sunfish and found it to be an extremely difficult task. He recommended not even considering eating one. Once believed to be planktonic (drifting) but now known to be strong swimmers that propel themselves with their dorsal and anal fins, ocean sunfishes are thought to feed largely on jellyfishes and other small, soft-bodied marine animals. — Ray Waldner
Copyright © 2014 Sport Fishing Magazine. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.