HomeOutdoorsNewsLOOK: Massive Sunfish Found on NC Beach

LOOK: Massive Sunfish Found on NC Beach

by Amy Myers
Photo credit: JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images

A humongous 450-pound sharptail sunfish washed up on the beaches of North Topsail, North Carolina, and we wouldn’t be surprised if folks thought it was a half-eaten whale at first.

Sharptail sunfish have the same general shape as the common species, otherwise known as Mola mola. These odd fish lack a typical tail fin and instead possess a large dorsal fin and a rudder-like clavus. They are one of the largest bony fish known to man and tend to be clumsy swimmers that bob to the surface. Often, anglers and paddlers mistake their breached fins for those of sharks, but really, it’s just the gentle giant soaking up some sunshine.

Unfortunately, this sunfish had laid out for its final sunbath and washed up on the North Carolina beach. However, the fish will live on at the state’s Museum of Natural Sciences to educate marine enthusiasts about the strange species.

Especially excited about the discovery was Lily Hughes, Curator of Ichthyology at the museum, who shared a photo of the massive sunfish on Twitter.

“Fishmas came early to the Natural Sciences Ichthyology Unit this year! We are adding this beautiful 450 pound sharptail mola to our collection,” Hughes tweeted.

“It has been pure chaos getting it to Raleigh, but we’re so glad it’s here!”

According to Hughes, the team that transported the specimen had to use a horse scale from the College of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University to get an accurate measurement of the sunfish.

Another Giant Sunfish Stuns Marine Researcher

Back in October, another researcher came across a similar discovery much further north in British Columbia. Cetacean researcher, Jared Towers, found yet another subspecies of sunfish, deemed the Hoodwinker sunfish, that measured to be more than six feet wide, nine feet across and one foot thick. The discovery was quite a shock, not only for its massive size but also for its location. Sunfish tend to stick to temperate or subtropical waters.

Much like Hughes, Towers was more than happy to share the discovery with others.

“I can’t believe this just happened! I’ve seen many Sunfish (Mola) offshore over the years but never so close to home or this close up. Also, it turns out this is a Hoodwinker Sunfish (Mola tecta), a species only recently discovered,” Towers wrote in a Facebook post. “What a beautiful and inquisitive fish! I hope it finds its way back to warmer waters soon. So appreciative of my neighbours Wayne and Vance for letting me know it was out front and Ely for following up with the video from shore. Once in a lifetime moment right here!”

A fellow researcher only discovered Hoodwinker sunfish just a few years ago. They deemed the species “Hoodwinker” because the fish hid in plain sight among the common Mola mola for so long.

“I’m just lucky that one showed up and I was able to get up close and spend some time with it,” Towers said.