Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ocean Sunfish: A Really Big Fish in Larchmont?

I’d never heard of ocean sunfish until I read an e-mail that arrived last evening from Judy Silberstein, the publisher of the Larchmont Gazette, an online newspaper. Here’s what she said:

I received an email from a reader this morning detailing a sighting of a sunfish that he estimated to be 11 feet long. He said he had seen sunfish before past Block Island but never this far up the Long Island Sound. The location of the sighting is Pirates Cove at the back of Larchmont Harbor, which you may be familiar with.

Query: have you seen or heard of anyone else seeing a sunfish in this area or in the interior sections of Long Island Sound?

If yes, have you reports of sunfish of this size?

Obviously my answer was no. But I looked up ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and found the following in A Field Guide to North Atlantic Wildlife (Proctor and Lynch, Yale University Press):

These pelagic giants are unmistakable – massive with a flattened circular body that looks as if it had been cut off in the rear. The mouth is small and the gill opening has been reduced to a mere hole. … Weight: To 2 tons … or more. Size: To 10 ft. long and 11 ft. high.

I’ve asked around already this morning and got a quick answer from Tom Lake, who works for New York State’s Hudson River Estuary Program:

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) are not common, particularly inshore in our area. I have never heard of one in Long Island Sound.

That doesn't mean they've never been in the Sound, of course, only that an Hudson river expert hasn't heard of it.

If they are not common and not particularly found in the Sound, Pirate's Cove would be an even less likely location. Tucked away at the head of Larchmont Harbor, it is small, shallow and narrow, lined with seawalls, lawns and expensive houses.

Tom Lake suggested further inquiry. Anyone else know about ocean sunfish?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in Mamaroneck and we always heard that the really 'big fish' sailed out of Larchmont.


10:49 AM  
Anonymous Rick said...

Back in the mid-70s, I saw an ocean sunfish off Asparagus Beach in Amagansett, in the Hamptons. This was within a few years after the movie, "Jaws," so there was a lot of hype about sharks. The lifeguards immediately chased people out of the water, as they didn't have the expertise to distinguish a shark fin from an ocean sunfish fin. It was rather humorous and reminiscent of one of the scenes in the film.

I've never seen an ocean sunfish in Long Island Sound. They're such poor swimmers that it would probably take quite a bit of help from currents to get them there, not that it couldn't happen, under the proper circumstances.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

There are details on the Larchmont Harbor sighting and pictures of ocean sunfish in other locations here

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mine was fishing at the Larchmont Breakwaters about 10 yrs ago and saw a Giant Sunfish the same size.
Pilot whales, manatees, and bottlenose dolphins have been sighted passing through the Long Island Sound in the past, so I am not surprised by this recent sighting. Several people,including myself, saw a bottlenose dolphin at Hudson Park in New Rochelle about 15 years ago.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in the 1970s my uncle got a 300lb sun fish of compo beach was listed norwak hour we buried in back yard westport ct

2:53 PM  
Blogger Tom Andersen said...

That's really sad.

2:59 PM  

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