Austin Ensor told Sport Fishing that after leaving the marina this past weekend, he and his crew headed offshore from Ocean City, Maryland, in his 28-foot Carolina Classic Primary Search, hoping to catch some daytime swordfish. Having had recent success during the day for swords, they figured they could repeat their tactics and score again. Little did they know they would be hauling in a catch of a lifetime, an opah.
“Our first drop was at 9:30 a.m.: no bites. We repositioned for the second drop and had a swordfish bite that didn’t come tight. Third drop: We had a great swordfish bite, hooked and landed that 53-inch swordfish after about an hour fight,” Ensor says. “On our fourth drop, my mate James Dozerbach was dropping the lead to the bottom. James had about 1000 feet of line out when the line went slack.”
That’s when the crew hooked what they thought to be another swordfish. Thirty minutes into the fight, they started thinking otherwise: The fish made runs all the way up to 100 feet, and then back down to 300 feet.
“Truly impressive runs. At this point I thought it may be a tuna,” Ensor says. “After 1½ hours, I saw the fish for the first time. I knew it wasn’t a swordfish, it didn’t have a bill.”
When the fish finally rose from the depths, Ensor immediately knew he had a rare catch, recognizing the opah from Instagram posts he’d seen out of California. Opah (Lampris guttatus) are found in temperate and tropical seas worldwide, though they’re an unusual recreational catch.
(Opah are somewhat more frequently caught in the Pacific — even three at a time.)
Ensor said the energy was at an all-time high when they finally landed the fish. After stopping by a buddy’s boat, fishing nearby, to show off their catch, Austin began the 2½-hour trek back to the docks where friends and family were waiting.
The crew claims this might be the first opah caught out of the mid-Atlantic on rod and reel, making it a truly rare and special catch.
Perhaps the most touching part of this whole story was what Ensor told us next.
“It was truly a great trip. The odd part about this trip was one of my lifelong offshore mentors Lynn Jarmon had just passed away on Monday. On the ride out I asked him to keep an eye on us and make sure we were safe out there. The first-ever opah in this area on rod and reel, and I think Lynn was on the boat celebrating with us.”
Ensor and his crew are among the youngest fishing teams in the area, with an average age of 24. However, they have been fairly successful, with $23,295 in tournament winnings so far in 2017. Crew members include:
Austin Ensor 24
Brian Stewart 30
James Dozerbach 16
Tommy Clark 24