Sunfish (fish)

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Sunfish (Mola mola) are represented by three species worldwide, each with a short body that ends abruptly behind the tall triangular dorsal and anal fins. Sunfish are flattened from side to side and have small mouths, fused beak-like teeth, and tough skin which is scaleless, leathery and very elastic. The mola is an enormous grey or brownish species that can reach 13 feet in length and up to 4000 pounds in weight. They feed on jellyfish and plankton, mollusks and small fish. Their closest relatives are the puffer fish. Mola is Latin for millstone. Southern California anglers and boaters frequently encounter sunfish lounging near the ocean’s surface. Charles Frederick Holder wrote: “The flesh is insipid and uneatable.”

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In the News~

August 12, 1906 [SBMP]: “Captain Gourley of the Pleasure Pier has a young sunfish in captivity. The fish weighs about 80 pounds and is kept at the end of a line in the water.”

June 26, 1908 [SBMP]: “Mr. Fanning had an exciting experience about four miles from shore on his return trip [from Dick's Harbor, Santa Cruz Island]. Discovering a large sunfish, he decided to capture it. After a lively skirmish, using a harpoon, the party were enabled to lasso the fish that weighed over a ton. It measured between eight and ten feet long. They towed it to the wharf where it is on exhibition for those who care to see it.”

June 26, 1908 [SBI]: “A huge sunfish weighing 3000 pounds and with its eyes like saucers was harpooned in mid-channel yesterday by Fred Fanning and towed four miles to the pleasure pier, where it was still alive and swimming at the end of a line. Mr. Fanning was returning from a pleasure trip to Santa Cruz Island with Guy Cruikshank, Fred Thornburg and Raymond Lewis, when one of the party saw a monster fin on top of the water about 100 feet from the boat. Mr. Fanning altered his course, and when the boat came alongside the fish, a harpoon was rigged up and hurled into its side. For half a mile the big fish put up a terrific struggle, so that the full power of the gasoline engine was required to keep the boat on its course. He finally became exhausted and was towed ashore. The fish is about eight feet long and five feet high. In shape and color it is exactly like the smaller sunfish.”

March 3, 1916 [SBMP]: “Two young men who went out in one of Captain Gourley's boats yesterday morning returned to the dock with a baby sunfish weighing 25 pounds. The last named specimen was remarkable chiefly for its smallness, fish of this variety weighing up to 1800 pounds having been captured in these waters.”