One time in the fall I walked down to the back side of a cove near my house. It was close to low tide and my wife and I were going to dig a basket of quahogs for dinner. A dozen or so yards away I saw a bunch of flies swarming around and I walked up and found an ocean sunfish.
The ocean sunfish was a little worse for the wear. Ocean sunfish feed on jellyfish, and based on their enormous size they need to eat a lot every day to keep their form. In his pursuit of a full belly this one must have followed the jellies high up into the grass beds when the tide was high, and then stayed just a bit too long.
We noticed a few things when we inspected this rather remarkable fish up close. The first was his colossal size. If you look in the upper left hand corner you’ll see a pair of feet. Those size 11’s belong to me, and if you compare them to the rest of the fish you can get an appreciation for the size and scope of the fish. The second part that was very interesting was that this tail-less fish had a face that seemed to resemble that of an old man. There was a pronounced pair of eyes, a nose, and a rounded mouth. Most fish look like fish but this one was different.
We see them when the ocean warms up and the jellies are around in good concentrations. When I’m wade fishing around dusk and their dorsal fins fly high out of the water I think it’s am shark cruising in close. The fins flop back down almost as fast as they went up, and I relax and think about the bass and bluefish at hand. The ocean sunfish is one remarkable creature for sure.
And it occurred to me that most of the time we’re catching some really good looking fish, but every now and again we catch or see some fish that are just…well….a little bit different.
Tom Keer is a freelance writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He regularly writes for over a dozen magazines, and is the contributing editor of Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America and a columnist for The Upland Almanac. His book a “Flyfisher’s Guide to the New England Coast” was published by Wilderness Adventures Press in 2010. Visit him at www.tomkeer.com or at www.thekeergroup.com