Close Encounters Man vs. Nature

Catch of 900-pound sunfish creates stir in Jamaica

'At first I thought it was an alien, and I was somewhat frightened,' Desmond Phillips says of bizarre-looking catch, which lured dozens to the beach

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Desmond Phillips (left) and Michael Grant pose with giant sunfish. Photo courtesy of Jamaica Observer

The massive sunfish was so bizarre looking that Desmond Phillips, one of two Jamaican fishermen who caught the estimated 900-pound behemoth on Sunday, thought it was from another world.

“At first I thought it was an alien, and I was somewhat frightened,” Phillips told the Jamaica Gleaner. “It was difficult to bring the fish to the surface, and even more challenging to get the monster into the boat.

“When I realized what it was that we had caught, I said to my partner, Michael Grant, who is the boat captain, maybe we should release it.”

The two fishermen hooked the sunfish off Boston Bay and after a battle that lasted nearly two hours, Capt. Grant was determined not to let the unusual catch get away.

Fishermen pose with giant sunfish; photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner

Fishermen pose with giant sunfish; photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner

However, they were aboard a small boat and getting the enormous fish to shore proved to be more difficult than reeling it in.

They decided to tie it to the boat and motor to shore, but the boat could hardly progress because of the weight of the fish.

[Related: Workman Brothers notch two giant blue catfish just three weeks apart]

So they decided that the sunfish had to be brought on board.

“And after a lengthy period, and with water flooding into the boat, we finally brought it into the boat and set sail for Bryans Bay,” Phillips said.

Sunfish range throughout the world’s oceans, but they are not commonly encountered in Jamaican waters. And they’re quite the sight, roundish and blob-like, with truncated bodies, huge faces, and tiny mouths.

According to the Gleaner, word quickly spread of an “alien-fish” having been captured, and that lured dozens of curious people to the beach at Bryans Bay.

Many would eventually learn that these ocean sunfish, or Mola molas, can reach weights of 5,000 pounds, but are harmless omnivores that feed on sea jellies and other invertebrates.

“There is no need to fear it,” said Andre Kong of Jamaica’s Fisheries Division. “They are very docile and you can dive with them.”

For Phillips, according to the Jamaica Observer, it was his most exciting moment at sea since his catch of a 500-pound marlin two years earlier.

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